Many people dream that if they had all the money in the world, all of their problems would be solved. In reality, we realize that riches can actually be a person’s undoing. One can find story after story about a lottery winner who won millions, only to find himself poor – or poorer – a year or two later! Besides this, Chazal tell us that the “test” of the rich is greater than the “test” of the poor. To compound the issue, the gemora at the end of Menachos tells us “Echad hamarbe…” whether one gives a lot or a little is not the main point, as long as his intent is full and pure to do the most for Hashem. The Torah has one reference to the crown of the Aron and the Mizbeach. But there are two references to the crown of the Shulchan:
25:24-25 …and make thereto a crown of gold round about. … and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border….
Crowns represent reaching a level of prominence. We understand the crown on the Aron is because of the importance of Torah. The crown on the Altar refers to the service of Hashem, which we also understand how important it is. With regards to making a crown on the Shulchan, it seems difficult to understand, for the Shulchan represents a person’s financial abilities. Why is a person’s monetary status something worthy of a crown, let alone two crowns?
There is a story told about a miserly man. His Rebbe called him in and tried to impress upon him the importance of giving his money to tzedakah, saying “If I had as much money as you, do you know how many orphans and widows I would make happy? How much Torah learning I would bring about? How much chesed I would create and facilitate?” The miser, in his response to his Rebbe, tried to impart on the Rebbe how difficult it is for him, as a rich man, to part with his money: ”When you have no money and only stones, you can have a heart of gold. But when you have gold, your heart becomes like a stone.”
There is a commonplace “hoarding mentality” among the rich to hold onto their money with greater stiffness than those who are less blessed. Besides this, when one has so much, it is hard for him to appreciate what he has. In contrast, a poor man, who can barely eke out a living and eats his dry crust of bread, appreciates the gift of Hashem and it is easier for him to say a blessing on his bread with proper focus.
I think with this we can understand the greatness of the man who has wealth and uses it properly. He deserves two crowns: One for overcoming the urge of being a hoarder, and gives to others with a smile. Aside from that, if he is able to appreciate that which he is given, at the same level as those who are forced to have that appreciation, he deserves another crown.
Hashem has granted each of us the choice and strength to overcome all of our difficult situations. Some of them, which seem simple, like making a bracha on the food we have or giving away our money to tzedeka, if done right, can become our crowning (plural) achievement.