The mitzvah not to eat free lunch
“Read how this 32-year-old makes $230,000 a year in passive income!”
Unless you have been living under a rock (and have no wifi connection under said rock), you must have seen this type of article. These articles often come with attention-grabbing headlines, telling us how some uber-smart people make millions of dollars while, basically, not working.
The thing is, in most likelihood, it’s fake. Almost always, there is no such thing as passive income: you must invest, plan, manage, and evaluate whatever you do to ensure your efforts bring the desired results.
Recently, a social media influencer posted about buying a house without a mortgage at 21. The “people of the internet” were not so kind to her. How dare she flaunt her effortless success? “Meanwhile, everyone else has real jobs and struggles to make ends meet!” one comment read.
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The influencer then posted another video, tearfully explaining, “I’m sorry to anyone who feels like I’m bragging about the house thing, I do actually work.”
I believe her.
That is not to say that some people don’t earn their success faster than others, and some jobs are less tedious than others; still, as the saying goes, there is no such thing as free lunch. In order to be successful, you need to work hard.
Did you know this week’s parsha contains a mitzvah reminding us of this important concept?
The name of the mitzvah is ribbit: the prohibition of lending with interest.
“If your brother becomes destitute and his hand falters beside you, you shall support him… You shall not give him your money with ‘ribbit’ (interest).”
A loan with interest provides us with effortless money, and God wanted us to remember that this is not something we should be doing.
The midrash has some very harsh words for those who do not keep this mitzvah. “If someone doesn’t accept this mitzvah, it’s as if he doesn’t accept God!”
Here is one beautiful chassidic insight on this mitzvah:
We are more likely to cherish and appreciate something we have worked hard for: we feel proud of our accomplishments. Receiving anything for free can never feel as good.
And God wanted us to be proud and feel good about our accomplishments. In the short term, we might want to get things easily and without toil; but caring for our deeper human needs, He commanded us to choose the longer, more-effort way to have a more profound satisfaction in life.
May we take with us the lesson of this mitzvah wherever we go. And when something requires effort, we will know that this is God’s way of making us feel good.