“At some point in life, people start to think about the things they really own, what is significant and meaningful in their lives.
If we try to evaluate our assets, we will see that the only things that last are what we give to others.
A person who gives to others can be sure that he owns everything he gave away.
As we think about what we own, we may find that our assets change us – instead of the other way around.
However, what was given to others is still somehow credited to us.
Immortality is a common human aspiration, and a common motivation for philanthropy, even though there is no real way of knowing whether the outcomes of our actions will in fact remain after we are gone.
This approach to charitable giving is selfish to some extent and has nothing to do with the concept of reward in the world to come.
Rather it is about ensuring the giver’s emotional wellbeing in the present.
One can establish a phenomenal building, but as times goes by the name engraved outside will be forgotten or ignored.
But if a person took an action that made a difference – his deed will remain alive, even when his personal aspirations are gone.
One who gave a slice of bread to a hungry man owns this deed.
And such an ownership right is much more sustainable than any other kind.
A person can lose his political influence, lose his money — but no one can take his actions and deeds away.
These deeds truly belong to him.”
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From an essay, “Shrouds have no pockets,” by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz