How To Spend Money
One year the etrog [a citron fruit joined together with palm, willow and myrtle brances on the Sukot holiday to form the "Four Species"] dealers of the town decided to band together to raise the prices of etrogim. Now, an etrog had always been expensive, so much so, that it was customary for the wealthy leaders of the town to purchase one etrog to fulfill the mitzva for the entire community. This year, however, the price was so exorbitant that even that one etrog was beyond their reach.
As Sukot approached, the people grew ever more worried. How would the community manage to celebrate Sukot without even one set of the Four Species to share amongst themselves? Finally the sextons of the town's shuls called a meeting at which they hoped to raise the money needed. Only the richest members of the town had been invited, as they had always supplied the etrog for their fellow Jews.
One wealthy businessman stood and addressed the gathering: "It's an outrage to spend so much money on an etrog. Who do those dealers think they are to hold us hostage like this! There are other mitzvot which urgently need doing in our community. Why what about marrying off poor brides? There is an orphaned girl in our very own town who is not getting any younger. Wouldn't that be a more fitting way to spend the community's money?"
The rabbi listened quietly until the rich man concluded his plea, and then he began to speak: "It is certainly true that the girl you speak of needs a match. And it is true, as well, that it is a great mitzva to endower a poor bride and to help an orphan. But, I can't help thinking why, in all these years, did our speaker never think of helping this girl? Why, only now, when the question of purchasing an etrog came up did he remember her? I will tell you the reason. My friends, what we are witnessing here is the work of the yetzer hara - the evil inclination. The evil inclination is wily and crafty. He will use any arguement to discourage a Jew from doing the mitzva at hand, even if it means that he must convince us to do a different mitzva in its stead!
"This," the rabbi explained, "is typical of human nature. Often, when a person is about to fulfill a certain mitzva, in steps the evil inclination to cloud his mind with doubts. 'Why are you choosing to do this mitzva instead of that one? That one is surely more important.' Then the person becomes confused and his will to perform the mitzva is weakened. No, my friends, we must confront and expose the evil inclination for what it is and do battle with it. When we emerge successful, we will be able to perform the original mitzva, thus fulfilling the will of G-d."