The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

The Light Within

"המלט על נפשך"
"Flee for your life..." [יט“יז] - Vayeira
"כפר נפש איש עשהו"
"The ransom of a man's soul are his riches" [יג“ח] - Mishlei

רשי says on this Pasuk that the angel was telling Lot that it was enough him to save lives and that he should not bemoan the loss of his money. It appears that Lot delayed leaving the city in order to rescue his financial interests. Tosefta in Sanhedrin also talks about this point—the words 'for your life' appear to be superfluous indicating that Lots intentions were to save something other than his life. E.g. his money.

I think that the לשון of the Pasuk can teach us something very important - a lesson directed at our approach to wealth and the material world. How often in our lives do we confuse our priorities, how frequently do we question what the purpose of the material world really is?
A look at a Pasuk in Mishlei can help us with our understanding of the proper use of our material pos-sessions. (See above).

Hashem put man on this earth and spread the world at his feet. What is a man's כפר נפש , atonement for his soul, his ransom for his existence, if not the conversion of the worlds transitory goods into spiritual, ethical and timeless treasures. What is it that justifies mans existence? Certainly not the accumulation of material possessions, but rather the right and proper use of the means and abilities at our disposal. According to Mishlei the proper use of our possessions is to implant on earth the values of truth, morality, love and justice, (See Thought for the Week) and then to cultivate them with everything in our power and means.

An act of self-preservation can become the fulfilment of duty towards Hashem through the proper use of our possessions.

This is what כפר נפש איש עשהו means: the justification to live in time and eternity is gained by dispensing charity. A man's real wealth, accordingly, is the money he has used for the benefit of his soul. The part of his property which he gives to others sanctifies even that part which he keeps and uses for himself, provided he uses it to be able to apply his energies even more properly and beneficially.

How many times in our lives do we forget what it is that makes a man rich - how many people believe themselves to be rich but in fact have nothing of value and how many others think themselves to be poor but possess immeasurable and imperishable fortunes.

Lot did not have his priorities in the correct order - he was running to save his money. It could be that he had the intention of saving it in order that he be able to do good with it - but we see from the Pasuk that this it can't be so. The words 'your life' could mean that he was being shown where he was fundamentally confused and that he should have his priorities in the correct order. It is all very well having good intentions but in our lives we need to know what the Ikar is - that if our life is in danger, mate-rial goods have no value regardless of their purpose. This is where Lot was wrong he placed the material over the spiritual, his money over his life.

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