Ohr Hachayim Exodus: Weekly Torah Portion: Mishpatim
You get what you pay for…
“Labor is still, and ever will be, the inevitable price set upon everything which is valuable.” -Samuel Smiles
Supply and demand is a fact of economic life. If labor is cheap in Malaysia, if there are product overruns from Nestle, then why shouldn’t the consumer benefit by cheap prices? However, I’ve always suspected there is something inherently evil in extreme imbalances in economic systems. Somehow the cheapness of a product, the cheapness of labor, diminishes the value of work or the value of a person. It is reflected in a culture of cutting corners, of tainted milk from China, of maltreatment of workers throughout the globe.
The Ohr Hachayim (Exodus 21:4) develops an interesting corollary in our fulfillment of commandments. To perform commandments, takes time, effort and typically money. Kosher food is often more expensive, a Jewish education is certainly exorbitant (outside of Israel), not working on the Sabbath is a loss of income. Living by the commandments is an investment. It’s not always easy and it is rarely cheap (especially when time is money). However, there is an interesting solace to our financial and time investment.
The Ohr Hachayim explains that there is a certain evil spirit that floats around us. It can only attach itself to things that are free or cheap. But commandments that we need to work on, that we spend money on, the evil spirit can’t touch. Evil cannot attach itself to anything of true value, anything that we sweated over, that we invested in.
May we have the ability to fulfill commandments and may they always be blessed.
To the launch of the Times of Israel — A serious investment — may no evil touch it.