Parshat Mishpatim

Taken from Michtav Me'Eliyahu by Rav Eliyahu Dessler

In parshat Mishpatim, Hashem commands us: "If you lend money to my people, the poor man who is with you, you shall not behave to him like a creditor..."

On this, the Midrash Rabba comments:
Happy is the man who stands his test. For there is no person whom Hashem does not test. The rich man is tested whether his hand is generously open to the poor. The poor man is tested whether he can stand suffering without becoming resentful... If the rich man stands his test and is gererous with his charity, he enjoys his money in this world, the capital remains for him in the World to Come and Hashem saves him from the judgement of Gehinnom...And if the poor man stands his test and does not rebel against his lot, he receives a double portion in the future world...

We have discussed this midrash elsewhere. We explained there why the poor man who passes his test receives a double portion in the World to Come. (He receives one portion for observing his mitzvah-accepting his fate without resentment-and another as a reward for the suffering he underwent in this world.) Now we ask: Why does G-d have to "Save the rich man from judgement of Gehinnom"? If he passed his test and was generous with his charity, why is he threatened with Gehinnom and need to be saved by the mercy of Hashem? The answer is that the rich man who "enjoys his money in this world" is in constant danger of becoming absorbed in his possessions and his pleasures. If he is not careful, they may become the dominant interests in his life. In this way, he would be erecting an idol in himself and this would be Gehinnom itself. This would mean that he was investing his whole life in nothingness and, as we have explained elsewhere, a basic aspect of Gehinnom is indeed "nothingness". By placing his main interest in possessions which, in themselves have no spiritual value-which spiritually speakiing, are nothing-he loses his own spiritual value and nothingness fills his soul. This is Gehinnom.

However, if that person tries to be the best of his ability, sincerely and devotedly, to use his possessions as God wants him to use them, then God will bestow upon him the heavenly aid needed to avoid the pitfalls of the situation-to overcome the temptations and to act on the principle that the sole value of material possessions resides in the mitzvot that we do with them.

May we all be "happy with our lot". Shabbath Shalom!