Judaic Financial Planning ©2001
Yaakov (Jim) 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 (God aka 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 (Philadelphia)
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?
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 “firstlings 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 explicit 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. 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 UJA 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 – Hashem. 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.
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, 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 needed 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 planning – though rarely practiced.
The fundamental difference is acknowledgment or denial of source and the distinction in relationship between ownership or guardianship.
At the end of the year, the successful Chassid businessman made an accounting of all the business he had transacted during the year. When it came to the bottom line where he was supposed to write the net revenue over the expenses, he wrote, “There is none other than G-d” (Deuternomy 4:35).
Rebbes and Chassidim, Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
For the Chassid, revenue less expense wasn’t profit added to his “net worth” but rather the result was Prophet derived from Hashem to which he was a guardian.
Guardianship is a balance – a dialectic between earthly physical needs of the instinctual and the responsibility of the spiritual.
“Where there is no flour; there is no Torah. Where there is no Torah there is no flour,”
We are here in the material to earn our return –repairing (Tikkun) &spiritualizing the material in relationship in balance.
Balance is developing one’s portion – one’s enoughness – no more no less – in relationship not rivalry (interpersonal comparative more “let me cut off my brother’s head so I can be taller.”).
R’Moshe of Mekarov said, “Dry land absorbs water. (enough) If the earth is already saturated, additional water turns it into mud. (more)”
More becomes less.
Cain (acquire) wanted “more.” Shaddai (G-d enough) was enough for Abel giving of his first fruits off the top regardless of profit or loss. Cain (acquisition) murdered and tried to avoid responsibility like Adam. And Cain got his.
More becomes less.
Mud and murderers.
“Relationshipping” – “Alongside”
With his poetry to protect him…I am a Rock, I am an Island.
Song by Simon & Garfunkle
Believing, annually, for the past 40 years that the end was near, a friend purchased and developed at the cost of millions a “self sustaining” farm – replete with crops, windmills for energy, etc. in Australia.
Finally, after years of planning and careful planting, the crops came in only to be destroyed by the parrots.
Moral: Man plans, Hashem laughs.
Idolized ownership yields, eventually, it’s own parrots. More and more of the current currency yields less and less exposing the underlying LACK – empty (Hebraic numerical value is 310).
Empty (310) subtracted from Having (310) yields zero – nothing. Having and empty, different sides of the same coin, is a zero sum game.
As Naomi Reiman wrote, “have everything, experience nothing.”
Yet, out of no-thing comes everything. Out of the empty comes everything. At the bottom of the black hole is light.
The refraction is knowing the emptiness rather than avoiding it through current currency purchases..
Emptying is the remedy to empty (LACK).
Emptying requires space to reveal that hidden that awaits -already. Closets filled with clothes which haven’t seen a 30 inch waist in 10 years must be emptied to make room for the new “easy living” wardrobe. By the same token, if all the stations on one’s personal FM are already reserved, there is no sense in getting a new antennae. Without space in the closet and broadband on the dial, there is no room for a new relationship without acknowledgment of the primary current. There is only shifting of formats, letting out pants, and rearranging the seats on the Titanic. (Professionals built the Titanic; Amateurs built the Ark.)
The hidden that awaits remains concealed – unable to get airtime (maybe a public service announcement when no one is listening at 3:00 a.m.) or find a empty hanger.
By Hashem’s design, man Lacks. He is incomplete. Man is not self sufficient. Man is “Lack”sadasical.
Without Hashem and other men, man perishes. (Think of how many hundreds – thousands of people were involved from planting the tree to just delivering the #2 pencil to Office Max. Think how many thousands more were involved in creating the transportation to allow one to purchase the #2 pencil and take it home. Man assumes and forgets his need of other men. He is very skilled at “sharpening the eraser!”)
Man is a social being. Man requires - -- regardless of the socially desirable delusion of rugged individualism and self sufficiency – other men. Men exchange their energy directly (raising a barn) or via a stored medium of exchange (the current currency) whether in concentration camps or Hilltop for survival, repair, well being, and Teshuvah.
Relationships, like currency, without circulation (exchange) in time end.. Hashem created free will (within boundaries of choice and attitude) and space for man relate to other men – a test trial in man to earn his Teshuvah. The quality of man’s “relationshipping” (coined by Rabbi Gershon Winkler) earns steerage and deposits of an enduring currency for the world to come – the hidden that awaits.
However, in matter, most relationships have devolved to Thou –It – utilitarianism rather than I –Thou. Give to get – sex for security – is an exchange – a circulation but a currency only of the instinctual. Looks fade and current currencies devalue, and parrots eat the crops. The Thou –It relationshipping of rugged individualism turns ragged – withdrawals are made from the man’s account in the world that comes.
Deposits are made for I Thou relationshipping, deeds, emulation (aligning with Hashem’s will) and intimacy.
Love justice and walk humbly with thy G-d
While bitul (nullification) is an ATM deposit technique for some, nullification implies a certain surrender – extinction. Why would Hashem created that which is to become extinct, nullified? Rather the question isn’t nullification but appropriateness – being Kosher – redirection not extinction or nullification. Besides – no energy is lost in the economy the universe. Being Kosher – is being appropriate & balanced (refined and concise – the Hessed and Gevorah fused by the Tif’eret). In being Kosher, one isn’t merging with Hashem but, to paraphrase Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, to walk “alongside” Hashem in alignment with his aims. Life is a spiritual dress rehearsal for the world that comes – the hidden that awaits. Emulating brings one closer to Hashem – in alignment, alongside. Nullification attempts to extinguish or create mutually exclusive behavior. However, since no energy is lost in the universe, that which is nullified – like a squeezed balloon – displaces elsewhere and not necessarily in an appropriate way. This is not emptying the closet but denying the existence of the closet and the size 32 waist pants that haven’t fit in 7 years.
“Goodwill” isn’t just for a charitable tax deduction
When space is created through emptying, walking alongside Hashem, there is the possibility for intimacy. According to Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow, the lubricant of society is trust. The lubricant of intimacy is trust in Hashem’s current and derivatively oneself. The conditions for this trust (after a through housekeeping) is an environment of safe opposition where there can be dependence without co-dependence. This safe opposition – without shame and blame though within a mutual responsible guardianship of relationship creates a circulation and expands the currency. (“Of course, a tight prenuptial wouldn’t hurt – just in case,” one in transition might state relative to a maritial relationship.)
Teshuvah (the return) is earned developing one’s portion, knowing “enough,” creating spiritual currency via emulation alongside, emptying where necessary, relationshipping, repairing the world (inside out), spiritualizing the material, moving the 1/8th of an inch from the restriction (Egypt) of habits, stepping on the cracks in mutual trust – and falling forward in faith. This is Judaic Personal Financial Planning in Hashem’s economy of the universe.