Givens and Giving

The Zeitgeist of the modern era posits that all philosophy is merely an expression of one’s psychology. With that as a premise, black radicals argued (vitriolically) that the Jews must be responsible for black suffering in America: “Otherwise, why would Jews have been over-represented as leadership for the Civil Rights Movement?”

Similarly, in its piece on Paul Reichmann, The Jerusalem Post quotes the Toronto Star:

“‘Paul Reichmann was not particularly comfortable with riches,’ the Toronto Star stated in its eulogy, noting that ‘the Reichmanns seemed anxious to shed personal wealth.’”

Having had the privilege of knowing Mr. Reichmann well, I beg to differ: he differed and deferred to those that begged! We Torah Jews proceed from the axiom that there is Free Will and, despite the conflicting proclivities of human nature, one can decide philosophically what is the right thing to do in a given context, not merely as a consequence of a psychological orientation but as a moral decision. The Toronto Star assumes that if he and his family gave so much it must be explained away psychologically rather than philosophically: “The Reichmanns seemed anxious to shed personal wealth.”

Given our givens, we disagree. My observation of him over the years at home and in his various offices where I visited him — Toronto, New York and London — was that he combined his sense of the challenge to achieve with his deeply ingrained recognition that with all his talents and perseverance, success was a gift from On High. As such, Mr. Reichmann viewed himself as a custodian of that largesse, quite comfortable with those riches but committed to the realization that the greater the success, the more it was laced and threaded through with a sense of responsibility and mission.


Rabbi Nota Schiller is Rosh Yeshivah, Ohr Somayach Institutions, headquartered in Yerushalayim

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