Dear Readers,

If you just won $550 million, how would your life change? Would you continue living in the same home or community? Would you keep your current job or hobbies?

Undoubtedly, there would be many changes to your lifestyle. You might choose to upgrade your home, your travels, your vacations. You may begin frequenting more upscale shops or restaurants.

But how would such a win affect your relationships? Would your closest friends and confidants still remain that way? Would your friends view you as the same person? Would you become more generous and kind . . . or more wary and guarded?

A New Hampshire woman holds the Powerball lottery ticket that recently won $559 million. She described herself as a longtime state resident and “engaged community member.” She is fighting in court to remain anonymous so that she can continue to “walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known.” She wants to continue living in New Hampshire, and plans to contribute a portion of her winnings to charity and give back to the community “that has given her so much.” But she wishes to do so without others knowing about it.

By the time you read this, the courts may have decided whether or not she can maintain her anonymity. But her quest highlights how a change in our status—financial, social or otherwise—can alter our relationships with others, for both good and bad.

It is a clear goal in Judaism to “walk modestly with G‑d” (Mica 6:8). Judaism abhors flaunting and praises those who do goodness quietly for its own sake, rather than for personal recognition or the affirmation of others. Maimonides teaches that the highest form of charity is one in which the giver doesn’t know the receiver and the recipient doesn’t know who helped him (Laws of Giving to the Poor 10:8).

On the other hand, when someone publicly does good deeds, he encourages others to act similarly. When billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet started the Giving Pledge, they encouraged other extremely wealthy people to also commit more than half of their capital to charity and social causes. Their generosity spurred more acts of generosity.

Similarly, the Rebbe once responded to a philanthropist who wished to donate anonymously: “If a building is dedicated in your name and your name on its wall is visible to all, others will also want to give and more people will thus benefit.”

Most of us don’t find ourselves in the enviable position of winning a windfall like this New Hampshire woman. But all of us do have choices on how to conduct ourselves in our interactions with others, whether we do something quietly and anonymously, or more publicly to encourage more good deeds.

No matter what we wind up doing, our main consideration should be to increase the acts of good in our world!
Wishing you a great week,

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW