Parashat Ekeb: Faith and Charity
In Parashat Ekeb, Moshe instructs Beneh Yisrael that after they cross into Eretz Yisrael, work the land and accumulate wealth, they must ensure to remember that their wealth is given to them by G-d. He warns that a person might say, “Kohi Ve’osem Yadi Asa Li Et Ha’hayil Ha’zeh” – “My strength and the might of my hand made for me this wealth” (8:17). Rather than think in these terms, Moshe commands, we must instead “remember Hashem your G-d, for it is He who gives you the strength to make wealth” (8:18).
Interestingly, Moshe warns against attributing our success to “Kohi Ve’osem Yadi” – “my strength and the might of my hand” – and reminds us that G-d gives us the “strength” (“Ko’ah”) to succeed. In the first phrase, Moshe mentions both “Kohi” and “Osem Yadi,” whereas in the second clause, he mentions only “Ko’ah.” How might we explain this terminology?
It has been suggested that Moshe refers here to the unfortunate phenomenon of people who achieve financial success but refuse to share their material benefits with others. Sometimes, people feel that since they worked very hard to earn their money, employing their skills and ingenuity, they do not need to share it with those in need. This is the meaning of the phrase, “Kohi Ve’osem Yadi.” The word “Osem” can mean “might,” but can also mean “close.” Moshe speaks here of one who thinks that because of “Kohi,” since he invested great efforts to earn money, his “Osem Yadi” – the shutting of his hands, and refusal to assist others – is justified. In response to this attitude, Moshe says, “You must remember Hashem your G-d, for it is He who gives you the strength to make wealth.” Although we indeed work to earn a living, we must believe that ultimately, our material blessings come to us from Above. G-d alone determines how much we have; our success or failure depends solely on Him. Therefore, we cannot “close our hands” because of the claim of “Kohi,” that we worked hard to earn our money. The source of our material blessings is not our “hands,” our hard work and effort, but rather G-d, who expects us to share our blessings with those who are less fortunate.
The Talmud lists several questions that we will all be asked when we leave this world and move on to the next world, including, “Nasata Ve’natata Be’emuna,” which is commonly translated to mean, “Do you conduct your business affairs honestly?” Additionally, however, this may be understood as, “Did you conduct your business affairs with faith?” If we approach our professional and commercial pursuits with Emuna, with the firm belief that G-d alone determines how much we earn and how much we lose, it changes our entire outlook and the way we handle our money. We will be more flexible and less inclined to fight and argue, as well as less inclined to stingily keep all our earnings for ourselves. One we realize that everything we have has been given to us as a gift from G-d, we immediately realize our obligation to share what we have with G-d’s other children who need our assistance.