‘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...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.