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Thought for the Day: Buying Olam Haba, One Dollar at a Time

More often than not, we have Jews with green cards collecting during davening for one necessity or another.  Having a green card means his story checks out, so I never look at the reason on the green card; I am going to give a dollar no matter what and I think it is a little "over the top" of me to be judging if his request is worth a dollar.  That's just me.  I have another quirk: even he comes back -- either the next day or even the same day (sometimes they get mixed up where they have been) -- I give him another dollar.  I suppose that is just me also; it feels a bit funny to say, "I already gave you a whole dollar." to someone who is collecting for a kollel, or to marry off his 12th child, or to pay off his medical bills from his wife's cancer, and so forth.  Actually, though, it is more than just me; I have a Rambam.

The mishna (Avos 3:15, according to the explanation of the Rambam) says that judgement is on the quantity (not quality) of deeds.  The Rambam comments that the single act of giving $1000.00 to one person and nothing to another does not have the same effect on a person's mida of generosity as giving $1.00 (ok, the Rambam says "z'huvim") to each of 1,000 people.  The constant repetition of small deeds adds up to a much greater effect than one big donation.  That one donation, says the Rambam, certainly inspires a person, but then the inspiration wears off and no real change has been effected in the person.  The effect of those little donations, on the other hand, fix the mida of generosity as permanent acquisition in his soul.  Since the Rambam only considers the giver in this whole equation, I figure I should also.  Actually, since is is harder to give another dollar to the same person, I figure I am actually really hammering that mida of generosity into my soul.

Who says a dollar isn't worth much these days?


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