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Parshot Festivals

Enjoy your wealth, just remember who is ultimately responsible for it

  • RabbiHillelAvidan
Parashat Ekev includes a reminder that we are indebted to G-d for all that we have. We are urged to remember that we owe Him gratitude for all of our wealth and possessions, and thanks.
by Rabbi Hillel Avidan, Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation | Aug 02, 2018

“You shall remember that it is the Lord your G-d who gives you power to obtain wealth”. (Deut 8:18)

Yet, how often in the midst of our well-built houses, surrounded by expensive gadgetry and sophisticated aids to comfort, do we forget by whose grace we have amassed it all. The tendency is to take all the credit oneself.

“Beware… when you have built and dwelled in fine houses and your assets have multiplied that your success breeds conceit and you forget the Lord your G-d … and you say in your heart, my power and might have brought me this wealth.” (Deut 8:11-17)

Wealth can so easily lead to pride, and excessive pride interferes with the dialogue which should rightfully take place between a human being and his/her G-d.

The humanist slogan that “man is the measure of all things” encourages the unhealthy view that human power is unsurpassed and unlimited. We have certainly travelled far in the development of technology, but how far have we travelled in the field of human relationships?

British historian Arnold Toynbee wrote, “Humanism is the religion that appeals to man during the stage of his history when he has already become conscious of having won mastery over non-human nature, but has not yet been forced by bitter experience to face the truth that he is still not master of himself.”

It is just because we humans fail most miserably in our relationships with each other that we need to acknowledge a power beyond our own, a power that can assist us if we are prepared to make the effort to create dialogue and patiently seeking answers to our most perplexing questions.

Parashat Ekev warns us against the negative consequences of unbridled materialism, but nowhere in Judaism is it taught that wealth is something we should spurn. The antidote to the negative consequences of wealth is expressed through Jewish notions of tzedakah and responsibility towards society in general. Where wealth is shared for the ultimate benefit of society and self, then wealth is surely a most positive blessing.

Judaism sees G-d as Adon Olam, the landlord of this planet, and humanity as His steward. An acknowledgement of our status as stewards, responsible to the master for every one of our actions, would serve to curb that over weaning pride which so easily arises from material success, but almost inevitably leads to catastrophe.

By all means, make use of the good things G-d provides, but never forget who is master and who is servant. Each one of us will be called to account for our handling of our personal wealth. May we not be found wanting.

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