The prophet Jeremiah admonishes, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might and let not the rich man glory in his wealth; but let him that glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows me, for in these things I delight says the Lord.”
According to our sages, everything is determined in heaven except for the choices one makes between good and evil. Wisdom, might, and wealth are gifts from God. There is no place for a person to glorify himself in those things granted to him, so they can support and help him accomplish in those areas where he does have input and influence. The only area in life in which a person can justifiably take personal credit and pride are those choices a person makes when he decides to walk righteously upon the morally upright path over the alternative.
Ben Zoma declares, however, that certain types of wisdom — might and wealth — may, if done correctly, be prized and gloated over once they are integrated into the concept of “understanding and knowing me.” And he says, “Who is wealthy and may justly acknowledge his wealth? He who can mentally and emotionally be thankful to God and happy with his lot (now in the present). Happy shall you be in this world, and it shall be well with you in the world to come.”
God created a nature within humans, which we quickly become habituated to. We become comfortable with our families, our health, our environment, and our condition in life. There is an old saying that if God showed us the whole picture of anyone else’s life, all its pluses and minuses, the overwhelming majority of people would choose precisely where they presently are, even if the life of the other were wealthier and healthier.
This is good because, ironically, becoming accustomed to what we have creates the desire to explore and desire more, to experience something fresh and novel.
On the other hand, once a person starts to focus intensely on having more, this often causes him to lose his gratitude for all the good and all the blessings with which he has already been blessed.
Ben Zoma teaches us to live in the now. When one becomes seriously driven and focused on the future, this tends to put people under tremendous stress, in a constant state of worry and anxiousness. He may feel responsible for things that are not under his control. In addition, he lives in the past, which often brings feelings of guilt and personal blame.
The proper balance is achieved when we live primarily in the now; as Rambam teaches, “A person should view every day as if it were his last day.” The Talmud teaches, “Whoever has bread for today and is worried about tomorrow he is from the small believers.” We are grateful and appreciate the present while aspiring for more in the future.
Interestingly, we begin every day with our morning prayers, an expression of thanks and gratitude, and only a few moments later, we ask for more! From this foundation of thanks, it is healthy to seek more.
A person who constantly aspires toward more and forgets the present will never be satisfied. When he finally gets what he wants, he still hopes for more and always feels lacking. With this mentality, a person with $20,000.00 who seeks to double his wealth is poorer than a person with $10,000.00 since the feelings of lack in the more affluent person are greater. A poorer person with gratitude is wealthier than a person with no gratitude and with more money.
Not permitting oneself to get caught up in this cycle of “always” wanting more helps maintain inner peace; a person at peace with himself can take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.
Chapter 304 www.aspiritualsoulbook.com