4 Tamuz 5781 / Monday, June 14, 2021 | Torah Reading: Chukat
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Va'etchanan: The Big Bucks    

Va'etchanan: The Big Bucks

Everybody loves a good cause. Many people donate hard earned dollars to the causes that call to them. The amount that is offered...


Everybody loves a good cause.  Many people donate hard earned dollars to the causes that call to them.  The amount that is offered is usually up to the donors’ discretion.  Yet when it comes to how much we give to God, it has nothing to do with how generous we feel.  How much should we give?  Everything!  As it says in this week’s parsha, “You should love your God with…with all your resources" (Devarim 6:4). 
This verse is recited twice a day, as part of the Shema! So how are we able to buy food and pay the rent? Shouldn't every penny we earn be given to God?
Rashi explains that in the same way people are willing risk their lives to save their money; we must be willing put our love for God above all else, including our money.  This is the definition of loving God with all of our resources.
Loving God more than money is central to spiritual development.  We do not need to part with our livelihood in order to become more spiritual, yet we must learn how to channel and appreciate our wealth from a Jewish perspective.
The Jewish Work Ethic
In Pirkei Avot (1:10), our sages teach us to love hard work.  The Gemara states, “Greater things are said about someone who earns his own living than about someone with reverence of Heaven" (Berachot 8a).  Rabbi Chaim Volozhin teaches that according to his, it is better to earn a living by working than by serving as a spiritual leader, since leadership brings with it many temptations. 
The Gemara also says that sin is avoided only through a combination of both work and Torah learning.  “Do not think that you can avoid working completely, as this option is reserved for a select few" (Berachot 35b).  It's obvious that God wants us to work. 
And what do we work for, if not to make money --- and we Jews need a lot of it!  Mitzvah observance is expensive.  Our tradition teaches the value of having (and providing for) a large family.  At least once a week, we eat a lavish meal replete with meat, fish, and wine.  It is a mitzvah to have guests, and to give to charity, and to spend money on religious articles, such as an etrog and a Kiddush cup.  Clearly God not only wants us to work, He also wants us to enjoy our money. 
If God wants us to use our money, why does He demand that we love Him with all of our resources?  Shouldn’t we choose what we do with our hard earned dough? 
“It shall be that when Hashem, your God brings you to the Land…great and good cities that you did not build, houses filled with every good thing that you did not fill, chiseled cisterns that you did not chisel…you shall eat and be satisfied—beware for yourself lest you forget Hashem who took you out of the land" (Va’etchanan 6:10). 
We often make the mistake of thinking that we earn our money according to the hours to put in to getting that paycheck.  Although we usually need to put in the effort to receive the compensation, by going to work and making money we are plugging into an equation as old as time: "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread" (Bereishit 4:19). 
Work to Live!
God created this world to provide goodness to man.  When we work, we unlock the goodness that God has given us.  Yet, if we strive for wealth simply for the sake of satiating our physical drives, we remove the Almighty from the picture.  Distancing ourselves from Him brings disastrous results.    
Says Rebbe Nachman, “The desire for wealth is literally a form of idol-worship. So long as it continues to exist, the world is under the shadow of God's anger. But the more completely it is uprooted, the more God's anger is lifted and the world radiates with the blessing of His love" (Likutey Moharan 2:5).
Wealth that is earned for the sake of being rich disconnects us from the Source of life and introduces a fog of arrogance that blocks spiritual growth.  We become weighted down with materialism, and our goals, ideas, and passions get violently thrown off course.  We worship money and pleasure, and not the source from where it all comes. 
Rebbe Nachman teaches us that the way to break our desire for wealth is to contemplate the spiritual source from which material wealth and blessings flow. “By concentrating on this root, the desire for material wealth is dissipated. Here at the root, radiant with translucent light, the joy is purely spiritual. By comparison the object of the craving is much degraded. Only a fool would throw aside spiritual joy for the sake of some crude pleasure.”  
Many people live to work.  They invest so much energy and time into working that they give up their lives to earn a livelihood, and forget about the important things in life. 
We must recognize that we are not the source of our wealth!  God gave us the physical, mental, and spiritual talents necessary to make a living.  Through our efforts, we become worthy of receiving God's blessings.  By opening ourselves to the Almighty, we cleave to God through our wealth, and with His help fulfill our holy mission to love Him with all of our resources.   

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