"When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you,
not act toward him as a creditor; do not lay interest upon him."
(Shemos/Exodus 22:24) Medrash Raba (31:2) expounds that one who passes
Divine tests is fortunate, for everyone is tested by G-d. The wealthy are
tested as to their ability to open their hands to the indigent, while the
poor are tested in their ability to withstand the tribulations of poverty
without becoming angry. If the wealthy one is able to properly fulfill his
role as custodian of G-d's resources then he will be allowed to partake of
his wealth in this world and will receive his reward in the next, and G-d
will save him from punishment in Gehinnom (1); and if the pauper
withstands his challenge and does not reject G-d, he will receive a double
portion in the next world.
The wealthy man's Divine reward in the afterlife is rational; rather than
using his wealth for hedonistic self-gratification, he used it as a tool
in his service of G-d. But why is he saved from Gehinnom? So long as he
was fulfilling his mandate, how was Gehinnom ever a threat?
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (2) explains that as long as he partakes of his
wealth during his earthly life he is constantly at risk of straying into
self indulgent pursuit of physical pleasures. This environment is the
spiritual equivalent of surrounding oneself with idolatry. One of the
facets of Gehinnom is the void of spiritual truth, and one who toils for
spiritually vacuous materialism creates such a void of truth in himself.
He has, in effect, created a Gehinnom for himself.
What does G-d do to save him? Rabbi Dessler compares him to one involved
in the demolition of a wayward city (Devarim/Deuteronomy 13:13) who risks
eroding his sense of compassion and sensitivity to human life, but
proceeds with a Divine promise of spiritual rejuvenation to reverse any
and all ill effects. So too, the affluent benefactor who strives to
maintain his G-d consciousness in his use and sharing of his resources,
and uses them according to Divine instructions, has a Divine promise to
strengthen him and insulate him from the influence of his wealth.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) where souls are cleansed and purified of their transgressions so they
may proceed to Paradise for an eternity with the Divine Presence
(2) 1891-1954; in Michtav Me'Eliyahu, his collected writings and
discourses; from England and, later, B'nai Brak, he was one of the
outstanding personalities and thinkers of the Mussar movement