This week we witnessed the launch of the new iPhone with much fanfare. Multiple online channels were showing the launch live and instant analysis was everywhere. It sure seemed like the event of the year. In a bit of irony, my Android phone was beeping non-stop with news updates on the launch. As the updates kept coming, I started thinking about the juxtaposition of the launch with Yom Kippur, which is fast approaching. Just for the record, I am not against smartphones, and recognize their immense value (while also witnessing the downside of having “everything” the web has to offer at your fingertips and the destruction that has caused).
We not I
Not to deride Apple, but the whole “I” culture they have created is antithetical to this time of the Jewish year. The prayers of repentance on Yom Kippur are written in the plural. While we tend to think about only repenting for our individual sins, in fact, we also are asking for communal forgiveness. We pray on behalf of each other. The Talmud teaches in many places that “shekol yisrael areivim zeh bazeh – all Jews are guarantors for one another.” This flies in the face of the whole concept of Apple’s “I”!
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The other big concept that we see in both the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy is that we need to help those financially who are less well off. We say that tshuva, tefillah and tzedaka – repentance, prayer and charity are the keys to undoing the evil decree.
Explaining the importance of giving charity, Jacquelyn DeGroot of Learningtogive.org writes, “Tzedaka has two aspects: one with the hand and one with the heart. Judaism teaches the belief that donors benefit from tzedaka as much or more than the poor recipients, and the belief remains a common theme in Jewish tradition. Whereas the poor receive money or other material assistance, the donor receives the merit of sharing the Almighty’s work. Accordingly, tzedaka involves giving assistance with the hand and consolation with the mouth so the heart is without embitterment. The donor should give with a pleasant expression and with a full heart and the beggar should not hear rebuke.”
As this is a money column, I would like to focus on how with proper financial discipline. We all can give more charity than we have given in the past. The answer centers on living with both financial discipline and within your means. As I have written numerous times, the Mishna in tractate Rosh Hashanah says that the whole world is judged on Rosh Hashanah, including how much money we will have in the upcoming year. At the end of the laws of holidays, the Biur Halacha commentary says that since we don’t know how much money we are allocated at the beginning of the year, it is incumbent on each individual to live within their means in order not to run out of money. We have a responsibility to not be frivolous with our money, since it comes to us by heavenly decree.
I can forgo this
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This time of the year is all about reflection and self-examination. On a financial level, reflect on previous spending decisions and analyze if they were necessary. Every spending decision can have a crucial effect on not just staying out of debt, but saving and investing as well. Start a budget, where you have two line items that get funded first. First is long-term savings, what I like to call “paying yourself first,” and then charity.
Try to make sure that at least 10% of your income goes into long-term savings each month. By doing this over time you will generate large amounts of wealth. It goes without saying that the more money you have the more you will be able to give. Don’t think that is impossible. Remember that you get most of the way there from your contribution and employer matching into Keren Hishtalmut and pension funds.
Want to give more charity now but don’t know how? I once counseled a young man that set a goal of giving 100 shekels more each month to charity. At first he thought he was maxed out and had no extra money. Turns out he went to Café Aroma every day for coffee. I suggested drinking free office coffee just twice a week and that would generate the extra NIS 100.
Let’s use this time of the year to focus on the “we” and not the “I.”
May we all merit being written “in the Book of life, blessing, peace and good livelihood. May we be remembered and inscribed before You we and all of Your nation, the House of Israel; for good life and peace.”
Gmar Chatima tova!
The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates.
The writer is author of Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing (McGraw-Hill) and a licensed financial professional in the US and Israel. For more information, call (02) 624-0995, visit www.aaronkatsman or email aaron.co.il.
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