Section:  Avodah   Category: Innocent Observations
The Problem With Asking for Money

In the short list of qualifications for judges that Yisro told to Moshe Rabbeinu, two of them seem to be in conflict with each other. A judge must be an "Ish Chayil", a man of great means and stature, and "Sonei Botza" a person who hates money. How can we reconcile these two traits?

In order to do so we need to understand why money is the root of all evil. We must figure out why man has such a great desire for money. Why does it drive so many people and their life's quest? And moreover why is it so bad? Why does the Torah tell us that money corrupts?

Imagine your seven year old child coming to you one morning and asking for ten dollars. Why, you ask? The child answers that he wants to make sure that he will have enough food to eat for the day. You give the child a pat on his cheek and tell him not to worry, you will provide him with food, just like every other day and he need not worry. The next day the child asks for 100 dollars. Surprised you ask what for this time. He explains that with rising medical costs he wants to be covered in case he needs to see a doctor.

While this scenario is preposterous, the same goes for us in our relationship with Hashem. Hashem is our loving father who provides us with everything we need. We don't need oodles of money sitting in our bank account. Sure we need lots of money to get all the things we need to get through life, but those things are concrete and have a price tag, however money per se is totally useless.

Just like your child can come to you and say, Daddy I need new books, and toys, and snack, and and and, so to Hashem waits for us to turn to him to ask him to give us all the things we need both big and small. You can ask Hashem for a nice clothing and a new car, and you know what, he even appreciates it and will reward you for asking. Do you know why? Because your request is proof that you recognize that Hashem is the source and the sole provider.

In contrast, money promotes the exact opposite feeling. Money is abstract and with money in the bank you have a feeling of confidence that whatever arises in life, your money can bail you out. The bigger your bank account the more confident and independent you feel. No matter what calamity arises, with money you will prevail. HaKesef Yaaneh Es HaKol, money is the answer to everything. We want money because we want independence, namely independence from Hashem! The idea of having money and being independent of Hashem is just as silly as the notion of our seven year old child being independent of us.

Interestingly if you look at the things we ask for in Shmoneh Esrei, none of them can be purchased with money. With money you can buy lots of books and have a huge library but you cannot buy wisdom. You can afford the best doctors and medical care but you cannot buy health or longevity. You can't even buy prosperity for the next year. You can buy access to Gedolim, but you cannot buy a true relationship. You can buy a big house but not a happy home.

The judges needed to be men of means and stature to gain respect from the people. But they were all Tzaddikim totally devoted to Hashem and therefore hated money. We see from here it is possible you can still be very rich and not be affected by money. Go ahead and spoil yourself to all the good things in life (although that isn't too healthy either but that is a different story), just don't lust after money itself because that will totally destroy you. If you are fortunate to have some extra hanging around put into good use so that it can bring you up rather than drag you down.