Monday, May 12, 2014

KOSHER MONEY: Loving HaShem with all your possessions

The economic life of a Jew, his attitude toward material assets, his ethical conduct in buying and selling, etc. should reflect the religious values of Judaism. 

Although many Jews, and the same goes for people from other religions, tend to dissociate economic behavior from religious practice, the truth is that the Tora deals with financial matters, as much or perhaps more than with other areas of religious life.  Integrity in business, aspiring to financial equality, helping the needy, free-interests loans, terumot uma'aserot (taxes) etc. are just some examples of the ample spectrum of financial subjects the Tora deals with.  

Many times, observing the laws of the Tora implies the sacrifice of financial gains.  The rabbis referred to this type of situations analyzing two words from the Shema Israel ובכל מאדך 

We say in the Shema, "You shall love HaShem your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your power." "All your heart" and "all your soul" we understand easily. But what does "with all your powers" mean? The rabbis explained that "power" means possessions, money, assets. The Gemara explains: your love for your God has to exceed your love for your money. If we keep the laws of the Tora in financial matters, for example, sharing our profits with the needy, rejecting any participation in fraudulent activities, etc. we might be loosing money. Loving HaShem  בכל מאודך means that a Jew has to be willing to sacrifice his money for the sake of his love to HaShem. As we will explain BH in the coming weeks, the Tora does not require us to take oaths of poverty or renounce material wealth. On the contrary, rabbis have a positive attitude to honestly gained wealth. "With all your possessions" means that HaShem and His Tora should be placed above money. Shabbat is a great example.  When a Jew in retail business closes his store in Shabbat, or when a young Jewish professional rejects a good job offer because she won't work during Shabbat, they are doing exactly this: serving God with our possessions,  by placing HIM above them.