Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
If our money is earned through moral means and by living our lives according to the way Hashem wants us to, then our money has a koach lehatzmiach, a power to sprout wonderful things.
The Zohar discusses several causes of poverty. It mentions that the punishment for defiling food – something with is external to a person – is poverty. Even more so, if a person defiles something intimately inner like his reproductive organs, he will become poor and destitute.
Immorality, jealousy, and coveting all begin with the eyes and are all detrimental to one’s livelihood. Looking at lewd and forbidden images is sufficient to induce a decree of poverty from the Heavenly Court. Forbidden sights lead to illicit thoughts, and in turn, forbidden actions.
At this point, most people ask the following simple, but essential question: If it’s true that immorality leads to poverty, why are there so many immoral but fabulously wealthy people walking about?
Rebbe Nachman explains (Likutei Moharan, I:21) that all of the money and luxuries earned from immorality or by those who act immoral are worthless; indeed, they’re ultimately detrimental. How so?
Hashem gives us money in order to meet our basic needs and to make a significant and positive contribution the world. Money earned by immoral means or used for destructive ends will bring a curse rather than a blessing. Such a curse manifests itself in marital problems, debts, problems with children, and strife and misery from the moment he wakes up to the second he goes to sleep. Such a “rich man” is actually a ball of misery. By contrast, a person who does his best to preserve personal holiness will merit blessings in whatever he does, no matter how much money he has or doesn’t have on paper.
Personal holiness includes several significant factors that strongly influence the blessing of an adequate income:
Marital fidelity includes a number of areas:
1. Refraining from spilling one’s seed outside the context of marriage and procreation.
2. Observing the laws of family purity and mikva, while refraining from intimacy during the duration of the menstrual period and seven days thereafter (see your local rabbinical authority for more information about family purity).
3. Unauthorized birth control. On a spiritual level, children come from the same “channel” of abundance that income does. By restricting childbirth, one is liable to restrict income. Therefore, a couple should consult a proper spiritual guide before using birth control.
4. Modesty in dress and speech, especially for women.
5. Guarding one’s eyes, especially for men.
In today’s immoral society, many people mock personal holiness, but they unwittingly pay a dear price for doing so.
Men should accustom themselves to thinking with purity, and avoiding lustful thoughts. If we aren’t careful about what we see and what we think, the temptation to act on bodily urges and desires can be overwhelming.
In his Laws of Repentance (4:4), Maimonides writes that someone who gazes at a woman who is forbidden to him has very little chance of repenting, because he finds it so easy to justify himself. “I’m not touching her, am I?” he tells himself. “I haven’t acted on my impulses, or committed any sinful acts.” But the crucial point is that once a person allows entry to lustful thoughts, it’s the beginning of the end. Thoughts don’t stay mere thoughts for very long. God, in His infinite understanding and wisdom, knows this. That’s why He explicitly wrote in the Torah, “And you shall not stray after your heart and eyes.”
Men should avoid solitary confinement with any woman who is not an immediate family member, as well as avoid situations involving frivolity, alcohol, or idle chatter with the opposite sex. Contrary to modern convention, a man must try to get married as early as possible, so that he can establish a reciprocal bond of love, holiness and purity with a wife. Human beings simply aren’t built to be alone. Once a person is emotionally ready to get married, he or she shouldn’t wait to do so.
For many people, personal holiness is the battle of a lifetime. If you feel that you’re still a million miles away from personal holiness, don’t despair. Even when it feels too difficult to fight against the Evil Inclination, always remember that prayer can help you to overcome any adversary. Pour out your heart to Hashem, and beg Him to give you the strength you need to overcome this desire. If you persevere, Hashem will be happy to help you succeed. Remember, Elul is a gift: when we do teshuva and clean up our souls, we are also removing obstacles that prevent us from enjoying an adequate and easy income.