Money: Judaism's Biggest Challenge

The observance of Judaism is relatively easy nowadays as compared to other periods in our history. In most major cities, kosher food is readily available. The observance of Shabbat has been made much easier as employers are generally aware and are accommodating to the needs of the observant Jew. In Israel, this is certainly true as the holidays are observed on some level by all of its citizens, and Shabbat is clearly different from the other days of the week. Now that the observance of rituals is not that great of a challenge, it’s clear that there is an aspect to Jewish observance that is the biggest test of one’s commitment to the Torah. The real test is how one observes the laws that deal with money matters. Staying committed to the ideals of Judaism costs money. There are many areas where this manifests itself. The first area is the cost of giving our children the best Jewish education available. Tuitions in yeshivot are expensive even in Israel when salaries are not that high. Students might need extra help or tutoring which also costs money. If we understand how vital it is to teach our children about their heritage as well as teaching ethics and morality, as parents, we will do our best to give our children every opportunity for success. Another demand in our properly handling money, is our own personal value system in the manner in which we conduct our monetary issues. We are confronted with opportunities to earn money that are very tempting as they may promise great profits. But the integrity of a particular venture must be more important than the potential gain. We will one day have to answer to G-d as to whether everything we earned was done in an honest manner. Specific religious observance costs money. Kosher food, the purchase of Tefillin for a Bar Mitzva boy, purchasing books, the building of a Sukka and acquiring the Four Species, all add up to our annual expenses. But the commandment to give ten percent of our income to charity, may be the biggest challenge of all. However, if we are sincere and consistent in our commitment to Judaism, we will have the faith and courage to observe all of these mitzvot to the letter. It is very likely that an observant Jew’s biggest test of all comes when confronted with the commandment to live in Israel. Every rabbinic authority will verify that living in Israel is a mitzva. (Some might rationalize and say that it might be a mitzva if fulfilled, but it may not be an obligation.) In any case, if one is bent on doing what is right in the eyes of G-d, he knows in his heart that Israel is where a Jew needs to be. But on a monetary and comfort level, it is much more difficult to live in Israel than in other affluent communities around the world. Again, if one is sincere and true to his ideals, money and comfort should not be an obstacle to doing what’s right. He must overcome the temptation of being “comfortable” for the peace of mind of meeting his Jewish obligations. Clearly, on so many levels, the real test of one’s commitment to Judaism is in his wallet. This really needs to be emphasized to our young people who want to hear the truth and have not yet been spoiled and drawn towards rationalizing. We need not only to tell it like it is, but we also need to be living examples of what is right in the eyes of G-d.