Pirkei Avos Lesson- Chapter 4
It is customary to study a chapter from the Tractate Avos, or Pirkei Avos, in the weeks in between Pesach and Shavuos. Pirkei Avos are filled with the ethical teachings and wisdom of the great sages of the Mishnah.
The first Mishnah of this week’s chapter, or perek, discusses universally recognized attributes of greatness and the proper way to understand them: Wisdom, Strength, Wealth and Honor. Regarding Wealth, Ben Zoma says ‘who is wealthy? He who is happy with his lot.’
While being happy with one’s lot is certainly very nice, that does not make a man wealthy- it makes him happy! It would seem strange for Ben Zoma to merely be re-translating what the word ‘wealth’ means. Wealth means someone who has a lot of money. Period.
What is Ben Zoma saying?
To answer this question I would like to depict two different companies:
- Company A has big fancy offices, sells billions and billions of dollars of merchandise every year and employs tens of thousands of people.
- Company B is a small, locally owned grocery store that employs a handful of people, has sales that amount to just about $1 million and has cramped office space that is shared by 3 people.
Which company is wealthier?
Company A certainly seems to have a lot more going for it than Company B. But what if Company A operates at a loss every year and ends up declaring bankruptcy while every year Company B turns out a few hundred thousand dollar profit? Now which one is wealthier?
What Ben Zoma is telling us is that in order to determine if someone, or something, is wealthy you need to look at, not how much money they have, but at how much money they have
in relation to how much money they need!
way to achieve having more money than what you need- is to be happy with your lot.
So often in life we think that if we just get ‘X’ we will be satisfied. If we just earn a little more money we will have enough. Attaining these goals will never EVER satisfy us. Rather the way to satisfy one’s self is to look at what he does have and be happy and contented with that.
If you don't do this then you will automatically
go from small wants or "needs" to bigger and bigger and more and more expensive wants or "needs". You will
have enough money for what you need. That is the way Hashem made people.
However, if you do follow Ben Zoma's advice and you look at what you have and content yourself with that- you will be wealthy. Really wealthy. As in you will have more money than that which you need.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Eli Meir Kramer