Question of the week:
When G_d supplied manna to the Hebrews, He told them to gather only what they needed for the day. Not doing so showed a lack of faith in His provision. If we are to trust in Him for our daily provision, why do we save money “for a rainy day?” Now that I am retired, I see our savings as a blessing but also as a possible stumbling block. Is my trust still in Him or in our savings?
Maybe the answer to my question is that each person needs to look in their own heart for the answer but isn’t the heart a great deceiver? I hope you can answer this.
If we may respond to your last point first, we agree that looking into our own hearts is a terrible idea. Not only foolish actions, but even evil ones, have been carried out when people’s hearts misled them. Our hearts can be notoriously manipulative and our consciences notoriously elastic. Where examining our hearts can be of great help is when we look inside ourselves to try and understand our own deep and hidden motivations. We are then better prepared to withstand wrong temptations from our hearts.
You may be surprised to hear that moving off a system of manna from Heaven to one that follows the laws of the real world was difficult for the generation that came out of Egypt. Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that one of the reasons that the generation so easily became fearful and disheartened at the return of the spies (Numbers 13-14) was their misgiving at leaving the miraculous existence they had enjoyed since leaving Egypt, including having their daily food provided for them. They understood that, once in the land of Israel, they would need to fend for themselves and to become subject to the laws of the real world. They were naturally apprehensive. Imagine a family that has been living on the dole, for several decades suddenly being told that all payments were about to cease and that they would all have to find jobs and keep them if they wished to eat.
The Manna was never intended to be the model for humankind’s economic organization. It was clearly and openly provided by God with no involvement whatsoever from the children of Israel, specifically for the time in the desert. God’s only requirements were that they were to study the Bible that Moses had brought down from Mt. Sinai, maintain faith that the manna would continue and express gratitude. Those were the required payments.
When it comes to any time other than those 40 years of open miracles, savings are very recommended. That, indeed, was one of Joseph’s gifts to the Egyptians as he oversaw their filling of the storehouses during years of plenty. A lovely story from ancient Jewish wisdom tells of a traveler who passed an old man planting a carob tree. The passer-by scoffs a bit, taunting the old man that there is no way he will be alive when the tree bears edible fruit. The elderly man responds that he is planting not for himself, but for his children and grandchildren. That too, is a form of a savings account.
At the same time as we must make human efforts to be financially responsible, which includes saving for the future, we simultaneously understand that there is no guarantee that our efforts will be rewarded. Things happen. Economies crash, wars break out, markets implode, criminals (both in the government or in gangs) gain the upper hand as society crumbles. Even inflation, itself a moral failing of the government can utterly obliterate a healthy savings portfolio. We cannot rely only upon our savings as a foolproof plan. Even with a lavish savings account, it is best to pray to God for sustenance and societal stability, and recognize Him as our benefactor. In the final analysis, God is the sole entity upon which we can rely. Nonetheless, if we don’t make our own efforts, including savings, we have no credible leg on which to stand when asking Him to bless our efforts.
Wishing you a healthy savings account,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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Unit One focuses on the six days of Creation and foundational principles from the beginning of Genesis. This First Lesson discusses Genesis 1:1, how God communicated with man through the Hebrew language, and how studying the Bible in Hebrew opens up a world of deeper meaning.