Nothing belongs to me

I just came across this neat article on Chabad.org on “Why Don’t Jews Write ‘This Book Belongs to…’?”

Here’s an excerpt:

There is a common custom not to inscribe Torah books with “From the Library of John Doe,” “This Book Belongs to . . .” or similar Hebrew equivalents. Instead, the name itself is written with no preamble. Some have the custom to preface their names with “LaHashem haaretz umeloah,” “The earth and all that fills it belong to G‑d,” or the acronym lamed, hay, vav.

The custom is attributed to Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid (“the pious”) 1150-1217, who writes in his ethical will that people should “not write in a holy book that it is theirs. Rather, they should write their name without writing it is theirs.”

Some explain that this custom is a fitting reminder that nothing truly belongs to us; it is only entrusted to us. Accordingly, one should follow this practice not just with regard to Torah books, but with all personal belongings.

What a remarkable attitude of detachment in recognition of God’s sovereignty and generosity.

Imagine extending the approach more broadly: The earth and all that fills it belong to God. This MacBook, this iPhone, this winter jacket, this meal, etc. belong to God. And I am ready to hand it over to whoever is in need of it when my stewardship of it should cease.

Tithing Your Losses

It is told that there was once a grandson who claimed that his grandfather had been a hidden saint.

In attesting to his grandfather’s virtue, the grandson recounted the honourable work that his grandfather would do, the hours that he committed to prayer and study, and that he would donate ten percent to the poor.

The listeners were not particularly impressed since these are characteristics of any righteous and observant Jew.

The grandson continued saying, “My grandfather would give a tenth of his profits to [charity] and he would give a tenth of his losses as well.”

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Restlessness in Abundance

Already in 1840, Alexis de Tocqueville discovered and diagnosed in Americans the fear of missing out or, as it is now called – FOMO.

In Volume III of Democracy in America, Tocqueville juxtaposes Americans with those in the Old World who “are very ignorant and very wretched; they are not involved in governmental affairs and often governments oppress them. But they usually show a serene face, and they often exhibit a cheerful mood.”

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