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Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: "If one is truly nothing in his own eyes"


There is a story in the Midrash Rabbah about some scholars who came to a city to raise money for charity. 

They sent one of their number to observe the household of a certain illustrious citizen in order to ascertain how much to ask of him. 

The scholar came to the house and by chance over¬heard the rich man scolding his wife, insisting that she buy a cheaper brand of lentils for their table. 

The scholars therefore did not even bother to approach him for money but collected their charity from others. 

When they were about to take their departure, the rich man complained to them, "Why didn't you come to me?"

They explained the reason, and he answered, "Concerning that which belongs to me, I chose to be stingy, but about that which belongs to God I prefer to be generous."  

Ultimately, however, real charity is not only a matter of regarding the needs of others, it is a matter of not seeing oneself. 

If one is truly nothing in his own eyes, one is able to offer up the plenitude of oneself without experiencing a sense of loss. 

There is no reckoning—this one should get so much, that one something else, and I too deserve something. 

When the giver is out of the picture, like dust and ashes, there is no one above or below him, there are no levels of value, and the act of giving is spontaneous, natural, and simple. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From "The Many Sides of Chesed," from In the Beginning by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz