Monday, June 17, 2013

Judaic Personal Financial Life Planning - Part I

Judaic Personal Financial Life Planning ©2001
Yaakov  Schwartz

This land is mine; you are but wayfarers

            In seeking his own protection from physical pain and extinction, and validation of worthiness, man has: confused the primary currency (Hashem) with the current currency (dollars, deutsche marks, degrees, etc),  twisted responsible guardianship (“owning up to”) into ownership, and rationalized and contorted the concept of enough into comparative more at the cost of repair, relationship, intimacy and teshuvah. Metaphorically, he has sought via the current currency to secure the illusion of self reliance -rugged individualism only to acquire the reality of his insecuriority - ragged individualism.


Money talks, no one walks – 
Cy Harold’s Men’s Clother’s 54th & City Line (Philly)

            Currency shares the same root as the word current. Currents flow – they circulate. Circulation (exchange) occurs to and from the source (the primary current). The primary current is the ocean; the current currents are tributaries from this main current. Currencies come and go (despite man’s efforts to permanently em-“bank” a current) while the primary current endures – circulating in time and space.
Today’s currency (current currency) is tomorrow’s useless store of value. For example, in Nazi Germany concentration camps dollars, diamonds, and gold were of little use to an internee. Yet, shoelaces were a most valuable current currency. Without laces, the internee’s feet would become frostbitten disabling the internee from work. Not being able to work was a guaranteed death sentence to the ovens. The rock solid Deusche Mark, even in wheel barrows, were of little value during the hyperinflation in Germany after WWI. Yet despite the transitory value of the current currency and despite printing “In G-d We Trust” on our dollars as perfunctory acknowledgment of the primary source, man vests his protection in the “ownership” of the current currency – i.e. of dollars “the almighty dollar”– for his protection. (“Believe in G-d but row away from the rocks and cut the deck twice.”)

Ownership or Guardianship

More, more, more, what the hell are we, all morticians?
e.e. cummings

Man thinks he owns directly or indirectly, via the current currency, but in reality he merely leases. The very word “ownership” denies its source – the primary current (Hashem). Man denies the source even though in Leviticus Hashem tells man, “this land is mine, you are but wayfarers.” Man denies the source despite the story of Cain (acquire). Cain was told to give first fruits “off the top” rather than quantity after the fact when sufficiency of the crop was determined – (acknowledging the royalty of the primary current). Cain gave from “profits”- the net not from the gross let alone the “first yearlings of the flock.” He  acknowledged the current currency first and foremost. Man denies the source, when, though he is  instructed that at the 7th 7th year (the Jubilee) all is to be returned to its source, he creates loopholes to continue his deluded idolization of the “ownership” of the current currency – even beyond the grave.
Temporal possession is not ownership.
Man has confused the word ownership with his “owning uP to” his responsibility as Guardian.
Guardianship implies responsibility. Also, with the responsibility of guardianship comes explict liability during the steward’s transitory tenure..  Ownership (mine not thine) enjoys the fruits and avoids the liability through clever linguistic rationalizations, legal devices (trusts, partnerships), and insurance to transfer any risk or liability.
Mine not thine.
Ironically, numerically in Hebrew, the sum of the values of the continuum of the word ownership (from owner/master to “have” to purchase ownership) yields the total value of 572. The numerical value of guardianship (shomare) is 540. The difference between the numerical value of “ownership” and guardianship is 32 – the number of the heart (lev) Idolized current currencies are heartless – here today gone tomorrow - jilted.
The word “ownership” denotes continuity, permanence, and certainty. Idolization of ownership of the current currency becomes about acquisition (as in Cain and Citizen Kane) for having (310 in Hebraic numerical value) This having ownership is not about guardianship. It is not a having to share nor a having to use but a having to possess – now and forever. Having  is the fortress of the current currency denying its temporal nature, and its origin. Guardianship – stewardship are mere words invoked at (for example) Jewish Federation etc fundraisers honoring a contributor with a plaque or monument in his or her name.

With having to possess, there is never enough. Enough is a little more.  The common distinction of haves and have nots is misguided. There are have a little want some more and have nots. This having is a self defeating comparative – as more, once defined, always moves the goal posts “for a little more” just in case. The having of “more” of the current currency is never fulfilled despite ever more expensive diversions and palliatives. There isn’t satisfaction in this temporal ownership as more is just a temporary “hit” bandaiding the emptiness the separation from the primary current – the source, the origin – God. More is like simultaneous consumption of Chinese & German food. A half an hour later, you’re hungry for power. Ironically there is no more.
 More of the current currency and what it converts to, after a certain level of income, yields diminishing happiness. From 1940 to 1990, Gross Domestic Product Per Capital more than tripled (333%) in inflation adjusted terms, while during the same period, the index of those ranking themselves subjectively “very happy ” declined 4%. In the General Social Survey (NORC) the percentage ranking themselves happy in 1972 (on the heels of a recession) was approximately 35%. By 1994, the percentage declined sequentially – without intermittent rise – to 31%.
Despite more (more income, more possessions, more of the current currency) – in real inflation adjusted terms – people feel “less” happy. In the meantime, despite more depression has increased (Prozac is one of the 5 leading drugs) while during the same 1972-1994 period we’ve experienced declines in happiness in marriage (68% to 62%), satisfaction with jobs (51% to 45%), and satisfaction with their place of residence (21% to 17%). And during the same period, though real income rose dramatically, the percentage of those “pretty well satisfied” declined from 33% to 29% - despite “having” more of the current currency.
More, more, more ironically produces dissatisfaction and the feeling of less. Like a nymphomaniac who can’t get satisfaction – the answer to more – is more – more of the current currency – as a palliative -rather than to deal with the underlying separation & emptiness – the LACKtose intolerance.

Responsibility & Balance – Enoughness

Boychik, everything in moderation, nothing in excess
Tillie “Bubbe” Schwartz repeatedly invoked

Everything in moderation – even moderation.

The first query of Adam by Hashem after eating of the apple isn’t one of shame (“why did you do this, doofus?”) but responsibility (“where are you, Adam?”) Responsibility without shaming. Owning up to
Guardianship demands responsibility (624 in Hebraic numerical value). Guardianship isn’t about more – having getting more – rather to the contrary, Guardianship assumes a liability, a duty to develop one’s portion (our chalik), and responsibility for that which it is entrusted. When “having” (310) is subtracted from responsibility (624), the result is 314 the number of Shaddai.
3rd Century Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish defined Shaddai as – “the one who said ‘dai’ (enough). Others Shaddai in terms of one of our relationships to Hashem as”G-d almighty, G-d all sufficient, ENOUGH in Hebrew. In both definitions, Shaddai is Enough not more.
Cain and Abel could be considered the first story of the struggle between More (acquisition of the current currency as one’s savior) and Enough (Shaddai). Cain wanted more of the current currency; Abel felt Shaddai was enough – the enduring current.
Derivatively, more  has become the basis of all personal financial planning; in contrast, enough is the basis of Judaic personal financial life planning(c) – though rarely practiced.
The fundamental difference:  acknowledgment or denial of source and the distinction in relationship between ownership or guardianship.

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