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Vayetze-money-money

And behold, a ladder was standing on the ground, and its top reached the Heavens” (Gen. 28:12)

 SIR Moses Montefiore, an outstanding Jewish figure, international diplomat, great philanthropist of the 19thcentury and close friend of Queen Victoria, lived to be 101. He built the first almshouse in Jerusalem and was an Ambassador for Jews throughout the world.

Someone once asked him, ““Sir Moses, how much are you worth?”  Moses thought for a while and named a figure. “But surely,” said his questioner,” “that can’t be right. It’s a large figure, but seems not large enough. By my calculation you must be worth much more than that that …

.” With a smile, Sir Moses replied, “You didn’t ask me how much I own. You asked me how much I am worth. So I calculated how much I have given to charity this year.”

“You see,” he said, “we are worth what we are willing to share with others.”

 

 

Our Parasha (Vayetze) begins with a description of Jacob leaving his home on the way to his mother’s family in Haran, fleeing from his brother Esau, and worried about his future life. As the sun set, Jacob was alone and after finding a stone to rest his head, he fell asleep. While asleep he dreamed of a ladder ascending to the heaven with angels going up and down on the ladder .R Yaakov ben Asher the commentator known as the Ba’al HaTurim, points out that the numerical value of the Hebrew word for ladder (sulam) is 130. The numerical value of the Hebrew words for money (mammon) and poverty (oni) are also 130.

 

Perhaps the ladder is a symbol for money. In the same way that a ladder can be used to climb to great heights or to go down into the pit, so too can money. If we are blessed with wealth and do the right things with it, we go up the ladder and reach for the heavens i.e. we use money to improve ourselves. However, money can potentially be a destructive force, leading to corruption and to a descent into the pit of evil.

 

Poverty can lead to sin. A person struggling to feed his or her family may rationalize corruption and justify transgressing God’s will. On the other hand, a person who deals with poverty in a positive manner may feel happy to be free of the problems that money can bring.

 

Wealth can also lead to sin. Wealth can also lead us into harmful desires and selfishness Wealth is similar to drunkenness; its intoxicating nature may cause a person to forget his duties Our Sages warn us that money is in itself the greatest enticement to sin. That is one of the reasons why money can lead to transgression; by its nature, it entices the spender to utilize it for worldly purposes devoid of spiritual content. The Torah teaches us to avoid the pursuit of wealth, and to be satisfied with one’s lot, since money can be catastrophic to a person spiritually. That was the redeeming excuse that Moshe used to justify the sin of the Golden Calf. He maintained that the nation of Israel were not guilty since they had received a tremendous amount of gold when they left Egypt, and this glut of money caused them to sin. If only Hashem had not bestowed so much money upon them, the whole incident could have been avoided.

 

On the other hand, think of all the wealthy people who are using their wealth to perform good deeds. A person who deals with money in a positive manner may find abundance and wealth to be positives in his life

 

The Midrash commenting on the above verse tells us that in the dream God showed Jacob two individuals: Korach, who was swallowed up by the earth, and Moshe, who ascended to Heaven.

 

Korach, we are told by our Sages, possessed so much material wealth that he no longer craved money. The fact that Korach was so extravagantly endowed with worldly goods gave rise tothe expression describing an extremely wealthy person as being “as rich as Korach.”…His money corrupted him, and now he had an intense longing for and uncontrolled desire for power. His ego motivated him to challenge the authority of Moshe and Aaron

Moshe, Chazal say, became wealthy from the shavings of the all the stone material that was removed from the carvings of the second set of the two tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were carved that God had given to Moshe (Nedarim 38a).. This material was apparently worth tremendous sums of money, so Moshe too was very rich, but it did not affect him at all.

 

Considering that both money and poverty have the same numerical value as the ladder that ascends to heaven, we can learn that what is important is not what we have or do not have. Climbing the ladder to heaven, developing our spiritual journey, is in fact dependent solely on values ideals and commitments that are irrelevant to the amount of money in our possession.

 

 

 

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