This world is upside down. And we all know it. And yet when it comes to something so basic, people still continue to stun me.

I’m going to be blunt.

If you have money . . . it isn’t solely because you are great, talented, hard-working, brilliant or lucky. It is because, for whatever reason, our Creator felt that you should be blessed (or cursed?) with financial success in this lifetime. And in case you haven’t figured it out, it is because He is hoping you will make the right choices and do the right things with that money.

We have this false illusion that when someone gives money to someone else, the giver is the big heroAnd likewise, if you struggle every minute of every day trying to figure out how to cover your bills . . . if you hold your breath each and every time you swipe your card, praying it won’t be declined . . . it does not mean that you lack talent, ambition, drive, determination and work ethic.

Yes, there are those who have no money because they don’t do anything to attain it. Just as there are those who have money and have done nothing to earn it. But most of us fall in the middle. We work hard, we try, we reach, and yet some of us end up with a paycheck to match our input, and so many of us don’t.

But here is where things are really upside down. We have this false illusion that when someone gives money to someone else, the giver is the big hero, the generous one, the amazing one. And that poor, pathetic receiver . . . should just be grateful that someone felt sorry enough for him to help.

Upside down!

When someone asks you for money, the response ideally should be, “Thank you!” Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help. Thank you for allowing me to use my money in the way for which it was intended. Thank you for providing me a way to help another and recognize my blessing.

This is why we have an obligation to give ten percent of our earnings as maaser, which can’t even be translated as “charity” because it is not ours to begin with. The Torah teaches us that ten percent of what we earn, what we receive, does not belong to us. When we write those checks, give that money, we are not giving our money away, for it was never ours to begin with. When we give more than that ten percent, then we can feel proud of ourselves. Only then are we really dipping into our own bank account.

Yet, our Creator knows that things are twisted and turned. He knows that we have a hard time recognizing the gift and the blessing when we are given the opportunity to help another. And this is why we have the custom of asking for lekach on erev Yom Kippur. Before our holy Day of Atonement begins, we are to ask another for a piece of honey cake. We do not wait for it to be offered (as when we really need something, unfortunately, it is rarely offered on its own). We ask. We straight-out humble ourselves and ask for a piece of that cake.

We should all know what it means and feels like to be on the asking endWhy? Because we should all know what it means and feels like to be on the asking end. And the hope is that by asking now for something to eat, we should be blessed for a year when we will never have to ask. When we will never lack. When we will always have what we need.

And if that prayer is answered, and we truly do not need to ask throughout the year, let us never forget how it feels when one is on that end. And may we be blessed not only to not need, but to be able to realize and recognize the blessing when we are able to give. And not only to be grateful for what we have, but to be grateful to the one who asked, for he truly gave to us more than we are giving in return. For he gave us the opportunity to give.

May we all be sealed for a good and healthy year, and may we be blessed with abundance, and always use it for the right reasons and in the right ways.