In Front of the Eight Ball

“Rabbi Lapin, please stop talking and writing about money; all you’re doing is perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes!”  This was the phone call I received a while ago from the head of one of the Jewish organizations concerned with anti-Semitism.  Knowing it was futile, I still recommended that he worry more about Moslems than about me.

“Rabbi Lapin, I love your weekly email messages but I get really turned off by the commercial message. I know you have to advertise, but it detracts from the spiritual high you give me.”  This was an email I received from a long-time reader of our work.  I responded by explaining how making money can be as much a way of serving God as worship is. I suggested that her attitude really placed her ‘behind the eight ball’ financially.  Hoping she wouldn’t be too put-off by another advertisement, I recommended she read Thou Shall Prosper for the full explanation

Then I assured her that I would write more on the topic. Here it is.

Compare these two verses and see if you can spot the subtle but significant distinction.

Abram took his wife, Sarai, and Lot, his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired…
(Genesis 12:5)

Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he possessed—and Lot was with him…
(Genesis 13:1)

Both journeys involved three people: Abraham; his wife Sarah; and his nephew Lot.  Both trips also involve Abraham’s wealth.  The main difference is that on the first journey Lot was wholeheartedly with his relatives, Abraham and Sarah.  By the second journey, the text indicates that Lot was more attracted to the wealth than to his uncle and aunt.  Looking at the arrangements of words in that verse, one could say that the possessions came between Abraham and Lot.

We are not shocked when five verses later we read of growing disagreement between the establishments of Abraham and Lot.

And the land did not bear them to dwell together, for their possessions were many, and they could not dwell together.
(Genesis 13:6)

The Hebrew root word for substantial possessions, ReCHuSH, appears exactly eight times throughout the Abraham story.

ר  כ  ש
SH   CH  R

Before we examine the meaning of the number eight, let’s identify one other phrase that appears eight times in the Abraham account.

And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba…And Abraham arose from before his dead, 
and he spoke to the sons of Het
(Genesis 23:2-3)

And the sons of Het answered Abraham…
(Genesis 23:5)

And Abraham arose and prostrated himself…to the sons of Het
(Genesis 23:7)

During the account of Abraham’s negotiation with the sons of Het for a burial plot, they are referenced eight times.  It is clearly deliberate since some of the mentions could have been replaced with a pronoun or omitted.

Mentioning sons of Het eight times is interesting because the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the letter named Het, whose assigned numerical value is, yes, eight.


So, Abraham’s wealth and his largest expenditure are both referenced eight times. Furthermore, he hands over a substantial slice of his assets to people named, “Sons of Eight.”

We need to know what the number eight signifies in Biblical thought.  An important Biblical tool is knowing that the first mention of something in Scripture is a good place to search for that thing’s essential meaning.

And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.
(Genesis 21:4)

In ancient Jewish wisdom, circumcision represents humans partnering with God to build His world. God created man, but we humans improve man by removing his foreskin.You won’t be surprised that the Hebrew word for oil, SHeMeN, spells out the number eight.  God creates oil, but it is valueless until man extracts its energy by burning it.

Abraham was the first human to accumulate wealth and the first person to invest some of that wealth in real estate.  By being mentioned exactly eight times, both activities hint at a partnership with God. Like so many other important Biblical insights, this is counterintuitive.  Left to our own, we tend to think of making and investing money as somehow unGodly, unBiblical, or at the very least, decidedly unspiritual. In reality, money is one avenue in which we partner with God to improve His world.

This is an appropriate time to discuss the number eight as we approach the holiday of Chanuka – the only festival designated for eight days. The implications of this holiday for our modern lives are mind-boggling and largely revolve around the numbers eight and twenty-five. If you’d like to hear more, listen to our audio CD Festival of Lights: Transform Your 24/7 Existence Into a 25/8 Life. This isn’t ancient history; it is living revelation and the CD is available now at a holiday sale price.

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20 thoughts on “In Front of the Eight Ball”

  1. B”H

    One mf the main reasons Jews have been succesful with money is precisely because we’ve treated the matter as something natural and also desirable. The world needs money to build houses, schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, museums, synagogues, etc. To make money is to be able to contribute to the world’s improvement. Now, you can be more or less generous with money, and that’s why Judaism highlights the powerful necessity of giving tzedaka. With it, the circle gets closed and everything makes perfect sense.

    Shalom ubrajá.

    1. Dear Ignacio
      Wonderful to hear from you-thanks for writing. One timeless truth about money it is important never to overlook is that its value is NOT in what you do with it, for instance charity. No, its value is what you did in order to make it. I explain this in great detail here Many make the mistake that money is only ‘kosher’ if you give it away. But Jews have been successful with money partly because we’ve been taught that making it honestly can only be done by serving God’s other children faithfully.

  2. Dear Sir
    I liked this Thought Tool so much that l started clicking links and by the time l finished, l had purchased a couple of CD’s and watched “Ancient Jewish Wisdom” dated 11-30-16. That was a lovely program. I enjoyed watching you and Mrs. Lapin interact. What fun! I felt like a fly on the wall.
    I wish l had known l needed a rabbi when l was a kid being schooled in the Southern Baptist way. Ancient Jewish Wisdom is way more fun.
    Best regards,

    1. Dear Marilyn–
      I am really happy you got to watch our TV show, Ancient Jewish WIsdom as it is really where Susan and I reveal most of ourselves in a very natural setting for us. Living God’s blueprint is SUPPOSED to be fun and wonderfully fulfilling but it is counter-intuitive which is why we all need a rabbi.

  3. Hello Rita–
    Yes, the connections are all important. For instance, the power of the triangle, (one half of the Star of David) is that its 3 lines link the three points, representing, God, Humans, & the physical world in which we live. Knowing how we authentically relate to money is a key part of relating to the world. Often the people who denigrate money are the same people who push government to take other people’s money. Hope you get to see our TV show occasionally here

    1. Speaking of connections, in a class discussion a couple of months ago, I was introduced to a distressed company a classmate brought up for example. Researching it intrigued me as I speculated about its future having looked further into its plans for restructure while in the process of requesting bankruptcy protection. I noticed that it was very possible that even I could afford a few shares if I should dare to risk it, and so I continued to consider it from then on, and brought it up in prayer often, sort of like a ‘let me know what you think about it’ prayer. Finally, last week,, I felt a sort of urgency that I should act, and so I funded my investment account Monday and dove in Tuesday. The very next morning, the first news I happened to catch mentioned Opec’s agreement, so I went back to check on my account and my TRIANGLE shares shot up 18%! And the next day’s gains made a total of 25%!! Part of my prayers was to clarify if I were on the right path as God knows that I rely on the illuminating pebbles He leaves me along the trail to find my way home. Thank you(s) for shining your light so that those pebbles glow that much more!

      1. Well done, Nancy!
        Thanks for telling us of this financial success. May it be followed by many more!

  4. Hello Rabbi,
    You are a wonderful blessing in the lives of millions of people. I love the TORAH, and strive to write it on my stony heart, I look forward to that day when GOD will remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.
    Imagine, if everyone would live according to the TORAH. What a different world it would be.
    Blessing, your friend,

    1. Changing the world one heart at a time, that’s our goal, Tim,
      and with your huge and humble heart more changed than you know, we are all doing well.

  5. Thank you rabbi for your thoughts. I appreciate way you connect the two money and God and show that its a partnership between us and God. Keep writing and God bless you and your loved ones.

  6. My Rabbi
    Thank you for teaching us how God has instructed us to do business, looks upon business as a higher and more righteous, noble act than pitiful volunteering. The principles of His, or God’s truths are so intricately woven into everything that we encounter on a daily basis that I wonder how long it will take us, once we get to heaven, to fully understand. What a lifetime of learning. He is truly fascinating.

    The things that people say about commerce being a bad thing are especially hilarious now that you have explained all of that. I really like that satirical quip about hoping that you wouldn’t put that lady off too much by recommending she buy one of your cds!!

    Having been in indoctrinated in a Gic I too believed deep down that there was some vague inherent evil or a reason to feel guilt when conducting business though I could not put my finger on it.

    I’M THRILLED TO KNOW THAT GOD LOVES IT WHEN WE LOOK AFTER HIS OTHER CHILDREN BY DILIGENTLY PREOCCUPYING OURSELVES WITH OTHERS NEEDS, WANTS!!! Who knew that I WAS doing work in His kingdom by being the best self-employed that I can be. And we are ALL self employed.
    Thanks Much. So glad I found your teachings. I share your teachings every time I get a chance.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing my teachings Gene,
      It is most gratifying for Susan and me when we know the Word is spreading. What is more, when you recommend our teachings to others, it is the surest guide to us that we are sowing value into your life. I am sorry your childhood was spent in a GIC. True for so many sadly. But there is life after GIC and recovery is possible. I am your humble doctor. Hoping you get to see our TV show occasionally here:

  7. Maria Kosatschkow

    Thank you , my dear Rabbi. (FYI: as you can see, I have made you my go to Rabbi.)
    Wonderful teaching on the number eight. Eight has been following me as long as I can remember. The house I grew up in was number 88, I purchased clothing with 88 printed on the front in 1975 which I could not part with. I always felt 8 was not just special, but special to me though not knowing why. I expect your audio material will enlighten me. “Thou Salt Prosper” has been a huge blessing to me, I use its wisdom every day before I begin work. Thank you and God bless you and your family. Maria K.

    1. Dear Maria–
      Thanks so much for writing. Does 8 stand out for you uniquely, or if I were to say, tell me all the things that 3 reminds you of, might you have a reservoir of 3-type memories also? I wonder about that. You see, each number has special meaning in ancient Jewish wisdom–for instance, 3 always relates to past/present/future–and Susan and I talk about many of them on the TV show you can see here

  8. May God bless Rabbi Lapin and his entire family with Health and Abundance! A righteous man who teaches wisdom to others will never know shame, will never see his seed begging for bread and will never be turned away from God’s Mercies. You will live in peace and in favor with almighty God for your faithfulness to the truth of his Holy Instruction, the word of God, the Torah.

    Every week you bring forth more and more fruit from the Torah for us to cherish. Your efforts will certainly bear fruit of their own and while I cannot fathom God’s mind, I feel confident that your labors bring Him much Nachas.

    May you go from strength to strength and enjoy the robust protection of all those who are friends of God and who honor Him with their words And deeds.

    1. Dear Michael–
      Thank you for your good wishes; from your pen to God’s ear! I feel privileged to be able to write these Thought Tools each week and blessed by the caliber of our readers. (That means you, Michael!) I know it is rare among our readers but around the world, there are so many who angrily and thoughtlessly reject the idea of ‘holy money’. In fact they utterly hate the idea of financial independence preferring to keep the population as dependent wards of the state. Not God’s plan at all. Thanks again,

  9. Rabbi, I am a Christian who has anticipated and loved your “FREE” weekly Thought Tools for years. I am deeply moved and inspired each week by your teachings, and share them with other Christians who thank me. We would never be “turned off” by your “commercial message”. With all due respect, don’t muzzle the ox?

    1. Dear Craig–
      How nice of you to write–and, what is more, I have never been called on ox in a kinder or more gentle fashion. But be muzzled? Me? Never! I tell the truth regardless. Political correctness is the refuge of the coward. So grateful to know you read Thought Tools regularly Craig. Wishing you all blessings

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