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 *


  • Arts and Culture Features Opinion Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Late Friday night, on November 13, I was headed for bed when an ominous news bulletin flashed across my computer screen – something about a shooting in Paris. It wasn’t long before the “small number” of shootings and casualties began to double and triple and quadruple. The locations of attacks seemed crazily disorganized, and the tweets and videos became more and more horrifying. It was a long night for many stunned observers. We tried to understand what was happening, and […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →