“Investing” in Blessings
By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
This week we read two parashot, Behar and Bechukotai. With this reading we complete the Book of Leviticus.
Parashat Behar starts with the law of the Sabbatical year and ends with a mention of the Shabbat. Indeed, there is a common side to both mitzvot: the observance of the Sabbatical year and the Shabbat cause money loss to the person who observes them!
This aspect of the observance of these two important mitzvot may be certainly discouraging for some people. After all, nobody wants to lose money! However, our sages noticed that this loss is only apparent, because the Torah promises blessings to those who observe the Sabbatical year and the Shabbat. We read regarding the Sabbatical year that, “I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year, so that it shall yield a crop sufficient for three years” (Leviticus 25:21). Regarding Shabbat, “And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy” (Genesis 2:3).
The sages even said that, “a person’s entire livelihood is allocated to him during the period from Rosh HaShana to Yom Kippur, except for expenditures for Shabbatot, expenditures for Festivals, and expenditures for the school fees of his children’s Torah study. [In these areas, no exact amount is determined at the beginning of the year; rather,] if he reduces the amount he spends for these purposes, his income is reduced, and if he increases his expenditures in these areas, his income is increased [to ensure that he can cover the expenses.]” (Beitza 16a).
In real life, it is not easy to see the Torah promises and the sages’ statement about God rewarding us for our expenses for Shabbat, festivals, and (in Biblical times) the Sabbatical year, realized. We all know how expensive Jewish life and education can be, and how families who invest in Jewish education and Jewish experiences are often financially disadvantaged compared to those who do not. We do not know how God works in this world, and we certainly cannot demand from Him reimbursement for our Jewish/sacred expenses!
Still, I do think that the Torah promises, and the sages’ statement do get realized in our lives, but in a more subtle way. For those of us who keep Judaism close to our hearts, there is no better blessing (or no better reimbursement!) in life than living according to the teachings of the Jewish tradition. Keeping Kosher, belonging to a Jewish congregation, providing Jewish education for our children and, certainly, not working on Shabbat and festivals, might cause saving less than others, or perhaps not being able to own or enjoy certain things, even if we are very responsible with our expenses. But at the same time, for most people who love Judaism, these same observances and facts are a great source of happiness, tranquility, good health, good friends, a feeling of belonging and a sense of fulfillment and strength that is hard to achieve living otherwise.
In this sense, I do feel that God blesses us when we live a life of Torah and good deeds, when we invest in providing our family with a life full of meaning and purpose that Judaism can provide. May we be able to find blessing and purpose in our lives, knowing that dedication, work and, yes, financial resources will be needed. May we be good “investors.”