Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

‘Your Money or Your Life?’

July 18, 2013 6:01 am 1 comment

Judaism’s most famous Prayer comes from this week’s Parsha (Bible portion).

Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad. Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One.

The verse continues, “And you shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.”

Rashi, the great Biblical commentator, interprets this last word (in Hebrew, Meodecho) to mean “with all your resources,” i.e. your money. This, of course begs the question, if we have already been commanded to love Hashem with all our heart and soul (i.e. to be prepared to give our very life for G-d) then why the rather mundane command about money? Surely, if we are prepared to give our lives for G-d, then sharing our money is a small thing to ask?

Rashi explains that in reality there are some individuals who value their money more than their lives. Such people need to be told specifically to love G-d with all their money.

Jack Benny, the well-known American entertainer from long ago, used to joke self- deprecatingly about his frugality. Once, he told of walking down a New York street late at night when he suddenly felt cold, hard metal pointing into his back and a gruff voice barked, “Your money or your life!” When he didn’t immediately respond, the gun at his back pressed deeper into his flesh and the voice from behind became more menacing, “I said Your money or your life!“ Benny replied, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

There are actually quite a few real life situations today which prove that this is no joke. Take the many private security personnel working in Iraq or Afghanistan at this very moment. Nobody drafted them. They are simply there to make a quick buck. What about the threat to their lives? What of their colleagues who have already been murdered? It would appear that some people really do love money more than life. How about the farmer in Zimbabwe? His life is being threatened by thugs and the police aren’t providing any protection but, in his mind, his farm is his life so he’s still there. It’s not easy to walk away from your life’s work – even if your life may be in danger.

So the Torah insists that we must love Hashem with all our heart, soul, life and resources – whatever it is that we value and cherish most, we should be prepared to dedicate in love to G-d.

I have spoken of this concept at Pidyon Haben Ceremonies (Redemption of the First Born), where one finds a very strange dialogue between the father of the baby boy and the Kohen. By Torah law, every first born belongs to G-d, or to his designated representative, the Kohen. The Kohen therefore asks the father of the newborn child, “What do you prefer, your first born son or the five silver shekels you are obligated to give me for his redemption?”

Now what kind of absurd question is that? Is this The Money or the Box? Which normal father is going to give away his son when he can keep him for the small price of five silver coins? I wouldn’t exactly call it the $64,000 question! Nobody is waiting in breathless suspense for the father’s answer.

But, in fact, it is a very serious question. The priestly minister of G-d asks of the father of this child – in your newborn son’s future life, what will be of primary significance? Will it be the child or the shekel? Will you place high importance on finance or on family time? Will you raise this child with an emphasis on materialism or on more meaningful things? This is really a very good question after all – one, which parents need to consider soberly before responding to.

How many workaholics do we know who are so busy making a living that in the process they forget to live. Remember, no one was ever heard lamenting on their deathbed, “Oy, if only I’d spent more time at the office.”

So the Shma reminds us that whatever our core values may be, they should be directed to Hashem and His service.

Even for those who aren’t overly thrifty, money is an issue. The reality is that Judaism costs. It’s not cheap to be Jewish, certainly not to live Jewishly. Whether the price of Synagogue membership, the additional expenses of making Pesach, buying a Sukkah, Tefillin, Mezuzahs or kosher food, all these things require a commitment from us financially. When we make that commitment with love and don’t complain about the high cost of being Jewish, then we are observing the mitzvah of loving Hashem with all our might, money and resources.

But don’t worry. Hashem loves you too.

1 Comment

  • Yossi, you mention the words “…heart, soul, life and resources …” and you provided interesting and convincing analogies & metaphors for ‘resources’. Can you please also explain ‘heart’. Is it possible that it should be ‘brain’? If not, what function can a pumping, muscle mechanism have?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →