I read on your site an article that suggested buying the best Chanukah menorah one can afford. I have a menorah, it is gold-plated, made in Jerusalem, and cost about $50. To buy anything better, anything more expensive, would have seemed self-indulgent; who would benefit but my own family and the shopkeeper? Surely it is better to give charity to those in trouble than to buy an expensive menorah for one's own family's enjoyment? Should our hearts not be for the poor?


You are correct that giving charity is an extremely important mitzvah—in fact in many ways it is incomparable to any other mitzvah (see Why is charity considered the greatest mitzvah?). That is why the Torah obligates us to give maaser, at least 10% of our earnings to charity or charitable institutions. Someone who is even more charitable is recommended to give up to 20% of his earnings.

But this leaves 80% of our earnings for ourselves, and let's face it, most of our purchases are indulging our wants and desires (besides for our basic needs). From this money, Torah says, don't only spend on what thrills you, show that you love G‑d too, and love the precepts that He gives to you. The way we do that is by glorifying the beauty of the things that He has commanded us. Showing how precious the mitzvot are to us, by being willing to buy the best that you can afford, demonstrates that not only do you follow G‑d's will, but you appreciate it and are thankful that He chose you to whom to give the mitzvot.

Chana Weisberg for