Posts Tagged With: wealth

An Attitude of Gratitude

“The people are bringing too much for the work that the Lord has commanded us to perform!”

Exodus. 36.5 (Parashat Vayakhel-Pekude)

Have your ever been to a fundraising event where the person standing on the dais says, “OK. We’ve raised enough money tonight. You can all go home now!” Personally, I have never experienced this moment – and I never expect to do so. Furthermore, there is not one professional development specialist in North America who would ever confess to having raised enough money for his or her non-profit; there is never enough.

And there is a good reason for this – and it is not greed. While Moses’ chief designer Bezalel may have had a surplus of riches for the Tabernacle (and we can understand ordering twice as much tile as we need for a flooring project, for example), the major goal of fundraising is not just to reach a monetary target, it is to develop a spirit of giving. Any development specialist will prefer a smaller gift, given annually, than a large gift, given once. A regular, annual gift allows for the possibility of greater attachment to the organization and the possibility of larger gifts in the future. One big gift, no matter how generous, risks the chance of the donor just walking away without any future benefit. So, for example, I would rather receive a $100,000 gift spread out over 10 years than as a one-time donation. This gives me the chance to involve the donor in the activities of my organization and to increase the gift over time, perhaps even doubling it or extending the life of the donation for another 10 years to a $200,000 gift.

But an even more fundamental question must be asked: Why did the Israelites give so generously? It seems to me that Moses was a master fundraiser. He developed an “attitude of gratitude” among the people (not my phrase). People donate because they want to give; if not, it’s a tax or an expense. I have to pay the IRS and buy groceries; I don’t have to give money to,say, the Southern Poverty Law Center to fight bigotry in America (a worthy cause). But I met the founder of the SPLC years ago, believe in their cause and am grateful that they do the work that they do. So I donate to their organization. I do not believe in white power organizations, for example, so they don’t get my money!

It is important to remember that we can be leaders in non-profit and religious organizations just as we can be leaders in our businesses and families. But to do so, we have to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in those whom we purport to lead. It is much harder to do so because these organizations are voluntary; people choose to join us – and there is nothing that we can do to keep them from leaving us. And, just as important, we do not give them money to let us lead them; if anything, we take their money and hope that they follow us. And if they don’t like the direction of our group, they will either vote us out or just leave; we are truly their servants.

So when we lead non-profit and religious organizations, let us remember that we are truly the servants of those whom we lead. And when we endeavor to develop an attitude of gratitude among them, we will reach the point when the giving will overwhelm the need – but we will of course always find a greater need in order to cultivate greater gratitude – until the day when our cause will, with God’s grace, become irrelevant.

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TAKING GIFTS

This week, our weekly Bible reading addresses an interesting topic: compensation.  Let’s take a look at what Leviticus says:

 Leviticus 7:7-10

Like the sin offering is the guilt offering; there is one law for them; it shall belong to the Priest who performs its atonement service. The Priest who offers a person’s elevation offering, the hide of the elevation offering that he offers, shall belong to that Priest; it shall be his.  Any meal offering that is baked in the oven and any that is made in a deep pan or in a shallow pan shall belong to the Priest who offers it; it shall be his.  Any meal offering that is mixed with oil or that is dry shall belong to all of the sons of Aaron, every man alike.

Can a leader be compensated for his or her actions?  Here in this passage we see that the Priests are entitled to certain parts of the animal, such as the hide, or the baked cakes after they are offered.

So the answer to our question of compensation is a definite yes; leaders are entitled to fair compensation for their work.  The Torah does not expect leaders to be totally selfless.  Serving God is a tremendous privilege, to be sure, but the Torah is quite clear that people also have to earn living; without food, water and shelter it is impossible to serve God with a whole heart.

So what is the proper compensation for a leader?  First of all, it is clear that the Torah does not speak against wealth; it is no sin to make a nice living.  People are entitled to earn as much money as possible.  But with wealth comes social responsibility.  One way in which a leader can lead is in the area of philanthropy.  Since the Torah places no restrictions on wealth – but has a lot to say about charity and righteous behavior (called Tzedakah), we can be Tzedakah leaders.  If we want to live like kings, so be it.  But if we do so, we should also be Kings of Tzedakah, leading by example so that our levels of compensation become irrelevant.

Two quick examples should suffice.  When we learn how much Wall Street CEO’s are compensated, most of us recoil in horror; we think of them, rightly or wrongly, as the greediest people in America for taking government money after destroying thousands of lives and then voting themselves huge bonuses.  But when we see that Bill Gates is worth billions of dollars, we shrug our shoulders because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spends countless millions of dollars doing great deeds around the world.

Personally, I hope Bill Gates doubles his fortune so that he can do even more good deeds around the world.  He is a leader who has earned his worth, both inside and outside the boardroom.

So in conclusion, compensation is not as important as Tzedakah.  Leaders need to earn a living, preferably a comfortable one.  But to be a great leader, we need to be a paragon of Tzedakah, righteous behavior and charity.

 Rabbi Jordan Parr is the author of the forthcoming book Moses Is My Uncle: Lessons in Biblical Leadership.  He is available for speaking engagements, seminars and workshops at rabbiparr@gmail.com.

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