Rabbi Elazar of Bartosa says:
Give Him from His Own, for you and your possessions are His.
And so has David said: “For everything is from You, and from Your Own Hand we have given You (1 Chronicles 29:14).
Rabbi Elazar was so generous (as tradition has it) that those who collected for charities would hide from him for fear that he would give them everything down to his last penny! THAT’S GENEROSITY.
So we have this saying about the root of generosity – it comes from the prior recognition that all that we have comes from God. Everything.
Things are not ours by rights. Things are not ours by virtue of our work and effort. They are all gifts from God, given to us so that we might be stewards of them. Gifts given to us to be used as we need them but also for us to share.
And so we give a portion of all that we have back to our Creator. We give it back with gratitude and thanksgiving.
And so we give, also, a portion of all that we have to others who are in need. Graciously. Quietly. Even anonymously.
In both cases the rabbis and tradition advise taking a portion from what we receive (for work, inheritance, whatever) right at the beginning to give back to God and to give to charity. If we wait to give until later – when we have paid our bills and had our entertainment and put something in savings – there will not be anything left.
So, is this relevant today??? Of course it is!
Successful modern folks tend to be overly impressed with themselves, with their talents and skills, and with their monetary acumen. If one reads the papers the world is full of self-made men and women! They forget, or have never understood, how much they were given (by genetics, by their parents, by previous generations, by the community and its schools), by pure chance and luck (being born in America for example) and by others around them (co-workers, employees etc.). “No,” they think, “I made all this by myself. And I’m not giving it away!’
Our wisdom tradition suggests that our modern world needs an attitude adjustment – to recognize that all that we have is a gift from the Creator in one way or another. Recognition of the gifts we have gotten leads, almost inevitably, to gratitude and to charity.