What is the most spiritual thing you own?
Your home? Your car? Obviously not. Maybe your books? Perhaps a religious
object with which you loose yourself from your everyday existence to commune
with a higher reality?
Open your wallet. Take out a single dollar bill. Place it on the table in
front of you. Take a long, contemplative look at it.
In many ways, this is the most spiritual thing in your possession.
But first we should explain what we mean by "spiritual." The definitions of
"material" and "spiritual" vary, of course, by the context in which the terms
are used. But a fairly common definition would be that the material things are
concrete and discrete, while the more abstract and encompassing a thing is, the
more spiritual it is.
What, in essence, is money? The ultimate abstraction of the human product.
One person expends his time, energy and talent baking bread. A second writes
poetry. A third and fourth and fifth carpenters furniture, grows tomatoes and
writes legal briefs. Others drive trucks, teach schoolchildren, manage sales
crews, pour steel, concoct medicines, repair power lines or debate philosophy.
Each of these things, on its own, is concrete and discrete, confined to itself.
A page of poetry will not produce a loaf of bread, and a bushel of tomatoes will
not light a road at night. But the human being has found a way to abstract all
these things to their common essence -- to a unit of human creativity and need.
Thus abstracted, they can be transferred, bartered, converted.
Look again at the piece of paper on the table in front of
you. What is it? It's a loaf of bread, a minute of wisdom, a dozen kilowatt
hours of electricity, half a glass of wine, a tenth of a toy, a
twenty-thousandth of a car, a three-hundred-millionth of a Van Gogh. A piece of
human life that can be folded and put in your pocket.
But there is also another definition of spirituality: that which brings you
closer to G‑d. In this sense, too, money can be the most spiritual thing
The Torah includes 613 mitzvot -- six hundred and thirteen actions which,
because G‑d has willed that we do them, connect us with Him. But when our sages
say simply "the mitzvah," they are referring to the mitzvah of charity.
In his Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains: Each mitzvah binds a
person to G‑d via a specific limb, faculty and area of his life. When we study
Torah, for example, our brain and our intellect are the vehicles which come to
embody the divine will and connect us with G‑d. Praying employs our faculty
of speech and the emotion of love in our hearts. Other mitzvot
employ our hands or feet, our capacity for joy or sadness or awe or hope,
the way we eat or dress or build a home or the manner in which we give birth
or bury our dead or enter into marriage.
There is one mitzvah, however, that is performed with the totality of the
person. When we give a coin to charity, we give our very lives. Because with
this coin, we could have purchased the piece of bread that holds body and soul
together. And to earn this coin, we devoted our entire being.
With every other mitzvah, we connect to G‑d with something -- with our
mind, our stomach, our home. With "the mitzvah" of charity, we
ourselves are the connection. The coin or bill we give is not, physically, a part
of us. But it is the essence of what we are.