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Who wants to be a millionaire? You should!

While I was driving my children to school, one of them came across a big advertisement for the powerball lottery.

“You should buy a Powerball ticket,” he urged me. “You can win 120 millions Dollars! And then we can build a Mikvah and renovate the Chabad House!” 

That child had clearly overheard some conversations that weren’t meant for their young ears… 

“It’s beautiful how much you care for our Chabad House” I replied, “But buying a ticket is most likely wasting 2 dollars”. 

Until we reached school we enjoyed a lively discussion about the chances of winning the lottery, how some of the lottery winners ended up bankrupt, and why it’s so important that our Chabad be built as a joint effort and not by a single individual. 

I didn’t win the lottery (shocking, I know, especially given that I didn’t even buy a ticket), but what stuck with me was how, in the child’s young mind, richness equaled a Mitzvah.

You see, I’d guess that for most of us (including myself), thoughts of “if I win the lottery” comes with a list of things we want to do, things we want to buy and places we want to visit. Yes, surely charitable giving is going to be part of the picture, but it’s not the first thing that comes to mind.

Perhaps this is the reason why most of us wouldn’t associate the desire to be wealthy with holiness. It feels so materialistic, so non-spiritual to have a goal of acquiring a lot of money.

30 years ago, while discussing our Parsha, the Rebbe focused on the fact that G-d had instructed the Jewish people to bring “gold, silver and copper” for the construction of the Mishkan (the tabernacle). 

Given that copper was the most commonly-owned metal at the time, followed by silver with only a few possessing gold, it seems that the order should have been reversed: first, G-d should command to bring copper, something that everyone can do. Then, those who can afford a gift of silver should be asked to join as well. And the final request should be made to the few wealthy individuals who owned gold.

The Rebbe explained:

“This is to teach us that every individual needs to do their very best to become wealthy in the literal sense of the word” (!!!)

And he continued:

“Having wealth will enable the person to incomparably increase their Tzedakah (charitable givings), as well as increasing in Hiddur Mitzvah (beautification of the Mitzvot)”.

The gist of this is that in the Rebbe’s eyes, having more money simply meant doing more good. The more we have, the more Mitzvos we can do. And so, the Torah tells us: set yourself a goal to become rich! But do it for the right reasons. Do it because it will provide you with more means to make a positive and holy impact in the world around you.

So my blessings to all of us is – may we all be rich, both in the literal and figurative sense, and may we always remember that richness equals Mitzvos; after all, this is what G-d created the wealth for.

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of Chabad.org.
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