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How Do You Spend Your Money? - כי תבוא

Friday, 4 September, 2020 - 2:02 pm

How Do You Spend Your Money?

How you spend your money reflects what you value and the life you strive to create for yourself. What does the Torah tell us about what we should strive to create with our money? 

The farmer in the land of Israel is commanded to give three forms of tithings: 

The first tithing: six years of the seven year Sabbatical cycle the farmer was commanded to give ten percent of his produce to the Levites, who did not receive a portion of the land, and were dedicated to serving G-d, teaching Torah, and supporting the priests in their service in the Temple.  

The second tithing: in the first, second, fourth and fifth year of the Sabbatical cycle, the farmer was commanded to designate ten percent of the produce and eat it, or its value, In Jerusalem, in celebration with his family and with others. 

The tithing of the poor: in the third and sixth year of the Sabbatical year the farmer was commanded to give ten percent of the produce to the poor. 

These three forms of tithing are not merely a list of the causes we are commanded to support, they represent the values we strive to create in our lives. Our efforts, the money we spend, the possessions and experiences we accumulate, should all serve one of these categories of tithing. 

In order to live a healthy and wholesome life we must first create moments and experiences of spirituality, moments of prayer, study and meditation. We take some of our money, which is the produce of our efforts, creativity and energy and invest it in  the holy. That money, that investment of time and effort, is the figurative “first tithing” which is designated to support the “Levite”. For in those moments of spirituality we are experiencing the lifestyle of the Levite. 

The ultimate purpose of creation, however, is not to escape the physical world and retreat to spirituality, but rather to sanctify and elevate the material world. This is represented by the second tithing, when the Jew was commanded to eat and enjoy food, the benefit from the material world, but to do so in Jerusalem. Figuratively, this represents benefiting from the material blessings in our life but doing so in a holy context, for a spiritual purpose. 

While the second tithing is the actual purpose of creation it cannot be achieved before we experience the first tithing. In order to ensure that we are using the bounty of the physical world for a spiritual purpose we must first experience the first tithing, the spiritual experience. Only when we begin our day with a moment of study and prayer can we ensure that the experiences of rest of the day will be elevated and sanctified.

If the first tithing prepares us to be able to experience the second tithing then the tithing of the poor is the gauge that indicates to us whether we are indeed experiencing the second tithing. The indicator that our physical possessions and experiences are not making us more self centered and materialistic, but, on the contrary, are enhancing our service of G-d, is that we are able to transcend ourselves and help our fellow.   

To live a balanced life, every dollar you spend should be included in one of three categories: (1) The first tithing: serving a spiritual purpose. (2) The second tithing: a physical need or pleasure that is sanctified because it enhances a spiritual purpose. (3) the tithing of the poor: to transcend the self and contribute for the benefit of others. 

(Based on the commentary of Rabbi S.R. Hirsh). 

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