Getting And Spending

There are different kinds of worth. This is illustrated in the old story of an entrepreneur who approaches a fisherman with an idea for a business. He can sell his catch for a higher price, buy a bigger boat, franchise, make a fortune and live a life of leisure. “What would I do with all that money and leisure?” he asks. “Why, you can spend your life lazing in a boat, fishing!”

The Chofetz Chaim is quoted as observing, “People say ‘time is money.’ But I say, ‘money is time.’ Making enough to live extravagantly costs precious hours of life, and I don’t have enough time for that.”

Money is not an absolute value, but how we make it and spend it reflects our values. In the Talmud, we are told that a man sent Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi a priceless pearl. In return the author of the Mishna sent him a mezuzah. When the man complained, Rabbi Yehuda said, “You have sent me something I have to protect; in return I sent something that will protect you.” Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi was a very wealthy man and not averse to generosity. But he was teaching something about the scale of values. It is a lesson that has not gone out of style.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.