Torah Fax    

Friday - Shabbat, October 15 & 16  - Parshat Lech Lecha

Torah Reading: Lech Lecha Genesis 12:1-17:27 
Candle Lighting  5:57 PM
Shabbat ends 6:55 PM


In our Parshah, G‑d promises Abraham great wealth. Indeed, upon his return from Egypt where his wife, Sarah, was abducted, he is rewarded with wealth from Pharaoh to compensate for all the pain Sarah endured. Abraham was again offered wealth from the King of Sodom when he saved him in his battle against the alliance of four kings who had abducted his nephew Lot. However, Abraham refused to take this wealth. In the end, Abraham became independently wealthy and prosperous.

When we review the Torah’s description of Isaac, he too was extremely wealthy; so too Jacob. Joseph, the viceroy of Egypt accumulated enormous wealth, and according to the Midrash, Moses became wealthy from the chips of sapphire that were hewn for the purposes of the Tablets upon which G‑d engraved the Ten Commandments.

What is it about wealth that was the hallmark of the Patriarchs and progenitors of the Jewish people? Doesn’t religion disparage the accumulation of great wealth?

In truth, there is no such disparagement. What is strongly denounced is the attitude that wealth can bring to its possessor that makes him infinitely poorer than the greatest pauper. But with the correct perspective on wealth, wealth can be extremely positive.

One of the pitfalls of possessing the wrong perspective towards wealth is that it does not lead to happiness; on the contrary. In the words of our Sages, “one has a hundred wants two hundred; one who has two hundred wants four hundred.” A wealthy person’s distorted attitude towards the acquisition of wealth causes him or her to never be happy with their lot. In the words of Ethics of the Fathers: Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot.” How does one accomplish this and still acquire material wealth?

There are six rules that will help the wealthy stay happy. They can be remembered by way of a mnemonic: W.E.A.L.T.H.

Where it comes from.



License and Legitimacy.


Healthy and Happy Soul

The first rule of being wealthy and happy is to recognize where wealth comes from. Who is the source of our success? To be happy one must know that wealth comes from G‑d like Manna from heaven. King Solomon puts it succinctly: “The blessing of G‑d is what makes one rich and there will be no sadness with it.” When one realizes that it all comes from G‑d, one feels that whatever they have, is beyond what they deserve. It is all a gift.

Indeed, it was Abraham who taught us this lesson. When Abraham refused to accept the wealth from the king of Sodom after winning the war that liberated his nephew Lot, he explained: “I raise my hand to G‑d, the supreme G‑d, Who possesses heaven and earth, that (I will not take from the spoils, even) a thread or a shoelace, nor will I take from whatever you possess—so that you will not say, “I have made Abram wealthy…”

Abraham did not want to accept a notion of wealth if it was not connected to the belief that it is G‑d’s blessing that makes us rich and not simply our own business acumen and hard work.

The second rule:

Emotion, energy and enthusiasm. To be happy with wealth one must not invest all of their emotion and enthusiasm in its pursuit. King David taught us this lesson in his Psalms: “The toil of your hands that you will eat.” This is interpreted to mean that one should not place their head in their work, just their hands. This does not mean, of course, that a doctor, for example, should not use his head, his insight and wisdom, in treating his patients, for that would render him totally derelict in his duty to provide good medical care. What it means is that one should not be obsessed with their work as a means of acquiring wealth to the extent that this pursuit becomes all consuming. If the physician wants to invest his emotions it should be in the desire to help his patients - not to get rich. The same holds true, of course, for every profession. Thus the “head”— i.e., the first consideration of a person—should not be the pursuit of wealth. The pursuit of wealth and the toil in one’s pursuit of a livelihood should be viewed as a means to the end; not and end unto itself.

This too we can see in Abraham’s life. Not only is it seen in Abraham’s reluctance to take the wealth from the king of Sodom, but in subsequent narratives as well. Among them, we find Abraham saying to G‑d, when G‑d offers him great reward: “G‑d, A-mighty G‑d, what could you possibly give me?” Abraham laments, of what use is his wealth if he has no children who would inherit it. In other words, Abraham was not interested in his own wealth and success; he wanted it for his children.

A third rule:

Accomplishments must be savored. Workaholics never have time to sit back and appreciate what they have accomplished. They are so enslaved to their work that they cannot enjoy what they’ve done—assuming it was productive and positive—and they certainly cannot enjoy their families, friends and the other more enduring things in life. They also cannot find enough time to fulfill their spiritual needs, nor the needs of others.

This is one of the reasons we have the Shabbat. Shabbat not only teaches us that G‑d is the Creator of the world, but, it also expresses the notion that G‑d is our Liberator. Shabbat is a day when we are liberated from the six work days; when we can turn our attention to more enduring and more enjoyable matters. Shabbat puts a limit on our involvement in worldly pursuits. No matter how much importance we attach to our work, when Shabbat comes we desist. On Shabbat one is allowed to not think about business and not feel any guilt. It is indeed a liberating experience from the constraints of the week.

Furthermore, as we sit back and rest on the Shabbat we can savor our accomplishments. Kabbalah teaches us that it is the soul’s power and faculty of delight that motivates us to work. But while we are engaged in the actual work, the delight is eclipsed by the work itself. Only on Shabbat does the soul’s inner delight come to the fore, and one can feel the most powerful experience of pleasure. Moreover, on Shabbat one can devote himself or herself to the higher pursuits of life, and the true sources of joy. Shabbat is what gives us as sense of what we’ve accomplished and it is therefore what makes us enjoy the fruit of our labor

Again, Abraham can be seen as a model for this emphasis on Shabbat. The Talmud states that Abraham observed the Torah’s commandments even before they were given at Sinai. The example they give is associated with preparations for the Shabbat. Abraham knew the value of Shabbat even before it became a formal commandment.

A fourth rule: License and legitimacy. 

The Midrash tells us that G‑d created gold for the construction of the Temple. Once it was created, He gave us the ability to use it for our own personal uses as well. But this implies that our ability to acquire wealth is a mere afterthought, a concession on G‑d’s part.

There is another way of looking at our use of gold, the symbol of wealth. G‑d gave us gold, and wealth in general, not half-heartedly, by saying (G‑d forbid), “I created it already - you might as well use it.” Rather, in giving us gold and wealth, it was G‑d’s way of licensing the rights of it to us so that we should utilize this wealth to fulfill our role as G‑d’s partners in making the entire world a Sanctuary for Him.

Once we recognize that the use of wealth to make our homes and communities Sanctuaries for G‑d—where G‑d finds a comfortable and hospitable place, thus making us His partners in creation—it gives our lives legitimacy that we might not feel we earned otherwise.

The fifth rule for wealth and happiness is Tzedakah. The greatest source of joy for a human being is the joy of giving. When we take our wealth and give it to those who are in need, we receive far more than what we give. What we give—no matter how great the sum—is finite. What we receive from the knowledge that we have made a difference in someone’s life is of infinite value. In the words of our Sages: “The poor man does more for the rich man, than the rich man does for the poor.” To truly enjoy one’s wealth one must be on the giving side.

The sixth rule for true happiness with wealth is to have a healthy and happy soul.  Just as it is hard for us to appreciate our wealth if we are in constant physical pain, so too, when our souls are undernourished and in pain, we cannot be happy. The more we try to distract ourselves from our soul’s discontent by drowning our misery in more material matters, the more the soul is in anguish, the more depressed we become and the less we can enjoy our wealth.

When we allow our soul to flourish by nurturing it with more Torah study and more Mitzvot, our physical wealth and pleasure that goes along with it is enhanced. The physical wealth becomes an external manifestation of our spiritual wealth.

In the Messianic Age, Maimonides writes, “all of the world’s delicacies will be as abundant as the dust of the earth.” At that time we will be able to fully appreciate material wealth because at that time: We will all know where our wealth comes from. We will also put our emotions and energy into the more important things in life. We will build the Temple in Jerusalem and our own personal Sanctuaries with that wealth. We will fully savor all of our accomplishments, inasmuch as the future Messianic Age is regarded as the Sabbath of Creation.  All selfishness will obviously then disappear, and we will be the most selfless and giving people. Our souls will be healthy and enjoy perpetual happiness.                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Moshiach Matters 

The Midrash tells us that G‑d complained to the Jewish people, “You have loved my Torah and not awaited my kingdom?!” The foundation of everything is the belief in Moshiach. We are obligated to wait, yearn and beseech, “When will You reign in Zion?!” (The Chofetz Chaim on the Torah, Noach) 

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