Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Does Hard Earned Money Represent?

RaYBaSH’s Ponderings of the Pentateuch
Parashah # 21: Ki Tissa: “When you take”
Shemot / Exodus 30:11-34:35
By: Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr

We know that the Brit Chadasha says that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil (I Tim. 6:10) and money and finances can be a touchy taboo subject with some as much as religion and politics are to the majority of the western public. You deal with the pocketbook and you are dealing with a private and intimate subject in peoples lives; almost as personal as someone’s sex life! Why!? Isn’t it just a configuration of atoms, molecules and elements that mankind has attached some sort of monetary value to, whether it be “precious metals” or simply paper and ink!? Why do we have this love-hate relationship with money? Why is it when someone gives us money, most of us like blow it and if it’s money we worked for and earned we are very reluctant to part with it so quickly?

Exodus 30:11-16 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them. This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD. Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls. And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.

Money represents our blood sweat and tears. It is symbolic of the culmination of labor and efforts. When we work with all our might, we throw our heart and soul into it and the reward of such labor, the fruit of such labor, often manifests itself as monetary wages; MONEY. Money isn’t evil, the LOVE of it is and so actually, in a way, money represents a piece of ourselves, our soul.

This is why it is become tradition in modern day Judaism to give tzedakah (charity) prior to prayer, a Sabbath or a High Holy Day because it is seen as a temporal replacement for the sacrifices while we currently are in exile and have no standing nor working Temple and Priesthood on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

When we give regularly to a ministry on a monetary level, we are actually investing apart of ourselves into the fabric and make up of that ministry. The blood sweat and tears we shed in order to obtain that money we give to a ministry is a form and type of sacrifice. The energy we expend in making money and earning a living is like the fire on the altar and the blood that is diminished though the expense of such energy by our labor is like the blood shed by animal sacrifice; this is what our wages is representory of.

We see in our Torah portion that the redemptive money given by everyone during the census of Israel was used for the building up of and maintenance of the Tabernacle; which meant they, through their money, which is symbolic of their soul, became part of that Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was not G-d’s, Moses’ or the Levites; it was the peoples. Just as one who gives to a ministry, they became apart of that ministry, it becomes in essence their ministry.

No matter how much one gives to a ministry, everyone has an equal share. Just as there was a set ransom at the census, the rich could not give more and the poor were not permitted to give less, likewise, everyone who gives to a ministry no matter the amount is equally apart of it as anyone else who gave.

Why are some people reluctant to give to a ministry? Because subconsciously in their spirit they know they are giving apart of themselves to that ministry and they want to make sure they believe in what they are giving their blood, sweat, tears and labor for.

Our Haftarah portion shows service and dedication to a ministry is not just about finances but also about giving of ourselves through our gifts, talents and even powers that may come from a position we hold. We see Obadiah risked his life and used the resources of the evil King Ahab who he was employed by to supply food to the very prophets Ahab was out to kill.

So in service to HaShem, we are to give of ourselves materially and immaterially in equal measure in order to be truly balanced.

Shabbat Shalom and Shavuah Tov! -- Rabbi Yehudah

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