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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →