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Between the Haves and the Have-Nots, Snobbery Is a Two-Way Street

I prided myself on living modestly—even seeing it as a Jewish virtue. Then I confronted my envy of those who were better off.

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All my self-righteousness wasn’t very righteous at all. It’s not enough to accept what G-d sends us; we have to accept what G-d sends other people, too. If a perfect G-d has given someone else more money, nicer clothes, or a bigger home, clearly that is what is good for them—because G-d doesn’t make mistakes. If I expect to be a person of faith, I have to be as happy for my friend’s bulging pocketbook as for my own sagging one.

Our Jewish tradition doesn’t require that we scorn wealth—the Talmud tells us Moses, King Solomon, and Judah the Prince were all fabulously wealthy. Just as G-d has sent my family the test of poverty (relatively speaking), G-d sends others the test of wealth. They’re expected to use their money for good instead of becoming corrupted by it.

Looking around, I see friends who host a dozen guests every Friday night. Neighbors provide space for Torah classes in their homes, or let strangers stay in their house, rent-free. Others donate scholarship money so children from less-well-off homes may attend day school or camp. Or they offer interest-free loans. Would I do so well if I had their test?

The local day schools will start winter break this week. My neighbors have made reservations for Big Bear and Palm Springs while I’ve planned yet another staycation. As they depart, I’ll wave goodbye to them with a smile on my face. And, hopefully, a smile in my heart, too.

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Between the Haves and the Have-Nots, Snobbery Is a Two-Way Street

I prided myself on living modestly—even seeing it as a Jewish virtue. Then I confronted my envy of those who were better off.

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