Some people are cheap, penny-pinching their way through life. They eat stale, expired food, and on the rare occasion that they eat out, they don’t leave tips. They huddle under layers throughout the winter, glaring in defiance at the central heating unit, and perspire their way through the summer, too miserly to install air conditioning. They don’t spend on themselves, and they definitely don’t give to charity.

Other people give generously when asked and are equally lavish when spending on themselves. They dispense cash withSome people are cheap largesse and are always ready to indulge in an extra luxury or two. Money is there for spending, and life is meant to be lived large.

But it’s a rare individual who sacrifices his own creature comforts to better provide for the needs of others, who holds back on his own spending so that there will be more left over to give away. Imagine the strength of character needed to put everyone else first and yourself last. That’s generosity!

The Torah describes the construction of the Kiyor, the copper laver which was used by the kohanim (priests) to wash their hands and feet when entering the Temple. The raw materials for the Kiyor were donated by the Jewish women, who gave up their own valuable mirrors for the cause.

Almost immediately thereafter, we read about the most shocking sin in history, when, just weeks after receiving the Torah on Sinai, the people constructed and worshiped a golden calf: “And they stripped themselves of the golden earrings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took [them] from their hand[s], fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into a molten calf, upon which they said: ‘These are your gods, O Israel.’”1

However, it should be noted that the women did not sin. They remained faithful to G‑d and Moses. They refused to contribute their jewelry and, even when threatened, remained true to their faith. When Moses finally returned, the sinners were punished, while the women were rewarded for their faithfulness in the face of temptation and violence.

But how can we really be assured that the women’s motives were so pure? Maybe they refused to give up their gold because they just wanted to keep it for themselves.

Perhaps that’s why the Torah prefaces the story of the golden calf with the description of the Kiyor. The women weren’t cheap, they were wise. They were willing to give up their own cherished possessions for a truly G‑dly purpose, but unwilling to invest in evil.

And that’s why they were rewarded.

This is the attitude we should strive toAre we wasting our money? inculcate in our children. There is nothing wrong with spending money for the useful things in life, and a person should aspire to serve G‑d lavishly. Paying for a quality Jewish education, buying kosher food, and supporting synagogues and worthy institutions might be expensive, but they’re worth it.

It is only when it comes to the empty-headed frivolities of life that we should hesitate. Are we wasting our money? Do we need it? Would we be any worse off if we waited till we indulged? It’s not that we are too cheap to spend; rather, we recognize the true value of money and life, and we’re saving towards the investments that last forever.