Posts tagged " money "

You + You = YOU

July 2nd, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

Money, money, money…” sang Abba in 1976.  What is it?  It is funny how challenging it is to define.    Is it those metallic discs clinking in your pocket? How about those strips of colored paper in your wallet?  How about when you write a check? Is that money?  What if you write on a napkin, “I’ll give you $10 on Friday.” Is that money? How about if we shake hands and I simply say, “I’ll give you $10 on Friday.” Is that money?  Or is money the magnetic orientation of iron oxide molecules on that brown strip back of your credit card?  Is it a stream of ones and zeroes on the hard drive of your financial institution’s computer?  What is money?

Whether you consult economists or financiers, business school deans or directors of the International Monetary Fund, you’ll always get much the same answer.  It will be something like this: money is a government authorized circulating medium of exchange that allows us to count and store value. 

While that definition is basically true, it hardly tells the entire story.  For a far more useful depiction, we should turn to the 10th chapter of William James’ The Principles of Psychology published in 1890. While William James, who in my opinion had a much more correct understanding of the human soul than Sigmund Freud, is not trying to define money, he is helping us understand the breadth of its impact upon our lives.

“In its widest possible sense, however, a man’s Self is the sum total of all that he can call his,
not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house,
his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works,
his lands and horses, and yacht and bank account.   All these things give him
the same emotions.  If they wax and prosper, he feels triumphant;
if they dwindle and die away, he feels cast down, not necessarily in the same degree
for each thing, but in much the same way for all.”

Among other things, William James is helping us grasp that our ancestors do matter.  If your parents stayed married and worked hard to give you a great launch into life, then you won what I call the ovarian lottery.  If, on the other hand, your mother was never married and spent much time inebriated, you had a far tougher road to a successful life. 

If you have wonderful children and a great wife, supportive friends and a sterling reputation, you are far better off than those who don’t enjoy these assets.

Yes, our ancestors’ actions powerfully shape our lives for better or worse.  Just imagine had Sonny Capone, Al’s only son, tried to build a career in banking.  Even Al’s great-niece, Deirdre Capone, recalls having been fired from her first job as soon as her employer discovered her identity. 

Similarly, our actions powerfully shape our own lives as well as the lives of our children and grandchildren.  And if our lives and potentially those of our children are not what we’d like them to be, we have the ability to change those actions.  We are not animals fated to be tomorrow just what we are today. We are humans capable of making tomorrow far better than today.  Today we can act differently from yesterday in order to make tomorrow what we really want it to be.  We are capable of transforming our lives so that we become new people.

Let’s learn a little about transforming our lives.

There are only three people in the Torah – the Five Books of Moses – whom God summons by repeating their names. 

…Abraham Abraham… (Genesis 22:11)

…Jacob Jacob… (Genesis 46:2)

…Moses Moses… (Exodus 3:4)

The repetition of the name is to emphasize that each of these men underwent especially dramatic transformations in their lives.  In order to highlight how transformation can make you a new person, God summonsed them by repeating their names.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that there was one Abraham before he discovered God and another afterwards. Similarly, Jacob was one Jacob before he became Father of Israel and another afterwards.  Likewise, there was one Moses before he undertook his mission at the Burning Bush and another for the remainder of his life.

However, the first two instances are different from the third.  There is a pause or separation between Abraham and Abraham and between Jacob and Jacob but not between Moses and Moses. Any authoritative Hebrew text will show a vertical line called a psik, one of the cantillation signs, which constitutes a separation, between the two names.  This gives you the general idea:

…Abraham | Abraham…

…Jacob | Jacob…

However in the Hebrew text in Exodus 3:4  there is no separation or psik between Moses and Moses.  This offers a beautiful hint that early Moses and later Moses were more alike than early Abraham and later Abraham or early Jacob and the later version.

Indeed, this turns out to be correct.  God changes Abraham’s life by talking to him at the start of Genesis 12.  But the text divulges very little earlier information about Abraham, information that might reveal why God spoke to him in Genesis 12:1.  There is no indication in the Scriptural text as to why God spoke to Abraham.

When the angel informs Jacob of his new destiny as the Father of Israel (Genesis 32:29), we have followed his life for quite a while, but we have scant information about what exactly made Jacob worthy of this incredible distinction. 

However, when God transformed Moses’ life at the burning bush by giving him a mission, we already have a sense of why Moses was selected.  He had already exhibited leadership, a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of his brethren, the enslaved Hebrews (Exodus 2:11-13).  Thus, we are not surprised when God appeared to Moses 14 verses later.

Sometimes God selects us for transformative moments that change our lives, as He did with Abraham and Jacob.  Sometimes this happens because of our parents or our grandparents.  But we can increase the chances of that happening by taking brave and righteous steps as did Moses. And, as William James noted, changing our financial destiny often goes hand in hand with changing other parts of our life, both spurring us to and affecting one’s very Self.

One thing that we can change is our ability to earn more money. It helps us to really understand what money is and how it reflects our relationship with other people. With the slightly slower summer pace, devote time to transforming your attitude to money—and your very Self—with our Income Abundance Set, available at special savings right now.


Matzoh, Money and Marriage

March 27th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 20 comments

Here’s an unusual thought experiment: Imagine meeting a twenty-year-old man who is suffering from near total amnesia. He explains to you that he knows how to read and write, drive a car and live healthily, but has no idea at all of what he ought to be doing to prepare for successfully living the rest of his life.  What are you going to tell him?

Upon some reflection, I think I’d say to him, “There are two really important things that are vital for happy living and neither is intuitive, so I am delighted that you asked me.”

The two are money and marriage.  Nothing at all is taught about either one at GIC’s (Government Indoctrination Camps formerly known as public schools.)  Not surprisingly, the result is a huge number of twenty-year-old men who have never given a realistic moment’s thought to earning a living.  Public education’s indifference to marriage has also resulted in a significantly diminishing percentage of young men marrying.  If nobody teaches young males how money works and why marriage is important, how could they possibly know? 


What do you think of bitcoin?

January 23rd, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments

What is your opinion of bitcoin? It would seem that it does not exist in the true sense and does not serve other human beings. Investments only have value when other people place a value on them.

Jeff N.

Dear Jeff,

We’re getting a strong urge to start this answer by saying that nothing in our Ask the Rabbi column should be taken as investment advice and that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can answer your question.

The point we would like to make is that bitcoin’s value, as you say, is based on people’s willingness to honor it. That is true for many things we call money. For example, United States savings bonds are “backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government.” If the government falls or become dishonorable, the bonds quickly become worthless. The service any form of monetary exchange provides is allowing people to function economically in a more sophisticated manner than basic bartering. But any government behaving immorally by inflating its currency in order to surreptitiously tax its citizens will quickly find its currency valueless.


Do as I Do, Not as I Say

December 20th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 26 comments

Years ago, the little yeshiva in Skokie, Illinois, had a pathetic basketball team.  Just a bunch of slightly nerdy kids stumbling around the court.  Their star forward  dribbled like a drunk trying to stomp a cockroach.  They were so low in the Jewish schools’ league that they usually fell off the bottom of the page.

One day—wonders of wonders—the Chicago Bulls offered to coach them to basketball excellence.  This was going to be The Dirty Dozen all over again.  There is something deeply moving about watching hopeless losers rising to stardom.  King David’s words would resonate throughout Jewish Chicago, “The stone the builders despised has become the cornerstone.” (Psalms 118:22)

What a generous act of magnanimity.  Living legends of basketball like Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman unstintingly giving of themselves.  Through their concern, a motley collection of kids who had never known what it was to hear fans roaring approval, would ultimately achieve success in sports.


Does God Determine How Much You Earn?

October 5th, 2016 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

The Jewish “New Year”, Rosh Hashana,  has just ended.  I have been privileged to be teaching in Jerusalem where several people have asked me the same question.  If God judges every human on this holyday, and furthermore He determines the fate of everyone including their financial fortunes, why bother working?  Everything is up to God and He will find a way to get into my bank account whatever He has deemed that I should have.  It so happens that I was fully prepared for this question since I asked it of one of my teachers many years ago.  I will confess there was a spirit of mischievousness in my inquiry that was utterly absent from the sincere and intelligent questioners who confronted me.  The answer is that God does not declare actual dollar amounts.  However, what He does do is establish the ‘cosmic exponents’ that will convert your efforts into actual dollar amounts.  For one person, X amount of effort will produce Y amount of return, for another it might be Z amount of return.  Obviously when X is zero, meaning no work and no effort, regardless of whether you square it, cube it or multiply it by ten thousand, the result will always be zero.  No effort generally = no return.  God put is in the Garden to work it; to exert our energy towards combating the entropy He built into the system for our benefit. This is why we know that closing our store on this website on Sabbath and Holydays is what God expects of us. While there may often be what appear to be temporary exceptions, we are always judged and God’s response is ultimately in accordance with our effort.

Do I Have to Stop Making Money?

July 21st, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet


This is a complex ethical question, at least for me. An acquaintance introduced me to an internet marketing business which offered ad-sharing that returned $5 for every share purchased once the share retired. When I bought a lot of packs and received 2% per day ($10,000 investment) it adds up and I reinvested every day which made my shares grow. I checked it out and it is not a Ponzi scheme. Since I do not have a business to promote, the traffic that I am buying with my shares are sent randomly to all the other businesses who are promoting their sites on this traffic exchange – Traffic Monsoon by name. I have to view 10 ads personally every day to be a part of the revenue share.


Your answer was off base!

May 5th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question #1:

“I have been receiving your newsletter and watching you on Glenn Beck and listening to your radio Podcasts for quite a while now. I respect you greatly and think that you have a lot of wisdom, however, I was very dismayed at your answer to the young 17-year-old aspiring massage therapist. I’m a massage therapist myself and there are countless ways that you can go into the profession. There are many ways that you can serve in a medical setting rather than in a spa setting. Spa massage IS a luxury and has much less therapeutic value.


The Too Few Flue

April 12th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

“I earned more money last year than my father/grandfather made his entire life!” Have you heard people saying that? I have; many times. It often means that the speaker is astounded at having earned more money than he ever expected to and the polite way to express this sentiment is by comparing it to a previous generation. Many people maintain a mental money-making number that they believe deep in their hearts to be the unspoken upper limit of what they think themselves capable.

Were it not so, nobody would ever be surprised at how much money he made. On the contrary, if our expectations were really limitless, we’d always view our revenue as merely okay. Better than last year this time, perhaps, but nowhere near what is possible. But we don’t think that way. Instead most of us think upper-limit rather than limitless. Instead of planning next year’s income in terms of “Let’s see how high we can make it,” we think in terms of “How close might I get to my goal?” The trouble is that the goal is almost always far lower than it might have been. (more…)

Money & Marriage Maketh Man

November 25th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

Try persuading today’s university students that making money is both dignified and moral. That’s what I did last week when I addressed 13,000 students at the Liberty University Convocation in Virginia. I not only told them that making money was a virtuous activity but I proved it. And they whooped, hollered and cheered. But remember, this was not Dartmouth, Yale or University of Missouri. There’s hope for America down there in Lynchburg.

My dear friend, the late Jerry Falwell, founded Liberty University in 1971. It is a beautiful campus populated by God-fearing young scholars who play as hard as they pray. Their Flames football team competes successfully in division 1 of the NCAA in the Big South Conference. (more…)

Get A Head

November 17th, 2015 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

You know those Rube Goldberg complicated contraptions that employ a long chain of mechanical levers and other devices to do something mundane like striking a match? We love watching them, partially I think because so much in life tends to camouflage cause and effect. When we watch a three minute process of rolling balls, falling weights, revolving wheels and tumbling dominos, it’s not only fun but also a little bit reassuring. Hey, the world does make sense.

Well, on a far larger scale and in far more meaningful ways, the world does make sense. However, it is very worthwhile knowing and following the principles even before we understand the chain of cause and effect that explains the benefit. (more…)