By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 50 – Go for the Gold
“Abundance and wealth is in his home, and his righteousness stands forever.” Both explanations that Rav Huna and Rav Chisdah give to this pasuk revolve around Torah. One says the pasuk is referring to someone who learns and teaches Torah, and the other says that it is referring to someone who writes Sifrei Torah, Neviim, and Kesuvim and lends them to others.
Interestingly enough, at the top of the amud we saw mention of a different type of wealth. Rabi Ilah detailed that one of the enactments instituted in Usha is that ha’mevazbeiz al yevazbeiz yoser mei’chomesh. The maximum one must distribute of his money to poor people is one fifth of his earnings. One cannot help but wonder why the language employed here is mevazbeiz? The root of that word is baz, which is like bizayon, as in the Mishna in Pirkei Avos that says al tehi baz l’chol adam, do not denigrate any person.
Why would Chazal refer to giving tzedakah as an act of showing scorn for money?
I would like to suggest that it is precisely because one sometimes needs to feel a sense of scorn for money in order to be able to give it away. “What do I need all this for?! What is it going to do for me to just have more and more money? What’s the point of it all?! I’ve got enough for my needs already, so what do I need more for? This stuff is worthless to me, just sitting in my hands as is! Let me ‘get rid of it’ so that I can actually get something out of it!”
And he gives to tzedakah. But even when you are that type of person – someone who truly realizes that he does not stand to gain at all from one day dying with extra dollars in his bank account – you still have to be careful to not over do it. Because, as the Gemara says, if a person gives away too much he may one day find himself in a position of need. Although many Poskim do say that there are exceptions to this rule, such as a very wealthy person about whom there is no chance that giving away more than a fifth could ever be the cause for him becoming destitute; still, that is the general rule.
So, yes, one has to act with fiscal responsibility, but at the same time, Chazal are showing us how much it is in our own best interests to relate to having extra dollars around as something which we inherently ought to scorn. “This is wealth? This isn’t wealth; it’s just a bunch of extra pounds!” As a very successful and very Klal-involved individual once told me in explaining the rationale behind his phenomenal endeavors of tzedakah and chesed, “We only get to live life once; you may as well do it right.” Ultimately, it is the person himself who gains inestimably when he recognizes that when it comes to money it’s a matter of ha’mevazbeiz, of “how can I get rid of this extra stuff so that I can actually get something out of it”; and that the real hon v’osher b’beiso is the Torah that one learns and teaches – either by doing so oneself, or by being a facilitator thereof.
Speaking of which, I could not help but be reminded of my Rebbi, Rav Moshe Twersky zt”l Hy”d, when I learned today’s Daf.
In explaining the opinion that says the pasuk is talking about someone who learns and teaches Torah, Rashi writes as follows. “The Torah is upheld in him (i.e. he always remembers and understands everything he learned), that is the abundance and wealth in his home. And his righteousness stands forever because he put forth the effort to teach Torah to students.”
I don’t think there is anyone I’ve ever met who embodied this more than Rav Twersky. In him you could really see someone for whom every line in the Gemara is a priceless treasure. Every additional piece of Torah knowledge, whether in breadth or in depth, was for him like depositing another fat check in his bank account. You could see that he truly felt that he had so much because of his Torah learning.
And boy did he retain it! His fluency and mastery was simply astounding. You couldn’t catch him anywhere. Whatever or wherever it was, if it was in Torah, he was holding. In a major way. (Interestingly enough, one of his children recently told me that the impression in their home was that this held true regarding general knowledge as well. This came up when he mentioned to me that Rav Twersky would eat whole techina instead of dairy, and almonds, etc. instead of meat [he only ate chicken on Shabbos, and red meat on Yomtov]. I asked him how Rebbi knew that information [which I only am slightly familiar with because my wife took a course in nutrition], and he said, “That’s not a kashya. In this house we all knew that ‘Tatty knows everything’.”).
And despite his infatuation with always adding more and more and more to his Torah bank, Rav Twersky expended great efforts to teach his talmidim. He didn’t just give a daily shiur. He didn’t just teach Gemara. He taught talmidim. He would make a point to encourage questions. A lot of questions. He would patiently go over an explanation again and again if that is what a talmid needed to understand it. His concern that his talmidim should learn, and gain, and grow was paramount in his mind.
Giving over Torah was as precious to him as learning Torah.
One time, a talmid who was living in America called him with a question. The talmid was learning morning seider in a particular Yeshiva, and the bachurim there discovered that he was a great person to speak to in learning, seeing that he had already thoroughly learned the Masechta that they were then learning. Some days, so many bachurim would come over to him to discuss the sugyah that he would not be able to do any learning on his own. He therefore asked Rebbi if it might not be a good idea to learn elsewhere. Rav Twersky answered him, “If you have an opportunity to help others with learning Torah, I don’t think you should give it up.” The talmid pressed, “Even though it means that my own learning is going to be greatly minimized, I still shouldn’t move to a different Beis Medrash?” Rebbi simply answered, “I wouldn’t.”
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at email@example.com.