Thursday, June 2, 2011

NASO 5771

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Naso

Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5771/June 3, 2011- 45th Day of the Omer

Pirkei Avos – Chapter 6

Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner zt’l would say that a conversation he once overheard between two young boys made him realize just how entrenched we are in American culture. A boy was telling his brother what he learned in yeshiva about the Kohain Gadol, his eight special clothes, the Service he performed, and the great responsibility he had, especially on Yom Kippur. The younger boy was fascinated and replied, “Wow! How much do you think he got paid?”

Shaquille O’Neill, the well-known basketball star (who just announced his retirement), once quipped, “The problem with our world is that it’s too materialistic.” The profundity of his statement is that he uttered those words shortly after he signed a fourteen million dollar contract. When asked about the glaring incongruity he explained that the contract “aint about the money.”

Perhaps it takes one to know one, and maybe only someone making as much money as Shaq can truly appreciate just how enslaved one can become to money, but I think it’s more likely that he didn’t realize how ridiculous his statement was.

There is a well-known truism that today’s luxuries become tomorrow’s necessities. Our drive for materialistic pursuits is insatiable, and one can easily become controlled by his money, rather than the other way around.

Rabbi Yisroel Reisman tells his young students, “I want to offer you an invaluable piece of advice, which is key to living a happy life. I hope G-d will bless you and your businesses will be successful and prosperous. When that happens, don’t raise your standard of living! If you are blessed with extra money save it, put it away, and enjoy it moderately. But don’t up the quality of your life by looking for a bigger house, a fancier car, more extravagant vacations, etc. If you do, you will never be able to enjoy what you have.”

A rebbe of mine told me that his grandmother would often repeat that in Europe they would mockingly say, “Upon three things the world stands gelt, gelt, oon noch gelt money, money, and more money” (a distortion of the Mishna (Avos 1:2) which says the world stands on three things – Torah, Divine Service, and good deeds).

Often money becomes an end instead of a means. Like everything else, money needs to be placed in the proper perspective. Without money we cannot give charity, support our families, purchase mitzvos, etc. But the million dollar question (or maybe the priceless question) is: Do you control your money or does your money control you?

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum