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Shabbat Parashat Haazinu 5776

Ein Ayah: Who Is Rich?

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:70-72)

Gemara: Our Rabbis learned: Who is rich? Whoever has nachat (a good feeling) from his wealth – these are the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Tarfon says: He who has 100 vineyards, 100 fields, and 100 servants. Rabbi Akiva says: Whoever has a wife whose actions are pleasing.


Ein Ayah:

Regarding Rabbi Meir’s statement (2:70) – Because all people run after wealth based on the inner inclination that most people have, it is necessary to define the true concept of wealth. Why does that phenomenon exist in the world?

The very existence of riches is a cause of a broadening of the mind and a calmness of the spirit. These allow one to deal with intellectual matters – with Torah and wisdom and all good things. So the real purpose of wealth is the calmness of the spirit that it brings. Therefore, if the wealth causes a person to have confusion, concerns, and a lack of concentration for his spirit, then the point of the wealth is lost. After all, the goal of the riches is the spiritual state, not the riches in and of themselves. [That is why nachat is the true measure of wealth.]


Regarding Rabbi Tarfon’s statement (2:71) – There is another goal of wealth besides the impact on one’s calmness. It is good for people to desire wealth for the purpose of the welfare of society as a whole. When there is a central source of resources, many people can benefit from associating with the possessor of the riches and by working for him. It is good for a person to have an inclination toward being the one who acts and influences others and benefits the masses through his wealth. That is why Hashem put this tendency into mankind. However, then the wealth should be arranged in a way that others are indeed able to benefit. Rabbi Tarfon’s example is that this happens through many vineyards, fields, and servants. In contrast, one who accumulates a lot of gold and silver and places them in storehouses does not create the type of goodness for which wealth was intended.


Regarding Rabbi Akiva’s statement (2:72) – It is possible to explain a person’s natural desire for wealth even in regard to things that are not classically owned by a person but relate to him in a less absolute manner. This expansion of the inclination toward seeking wealth is worthwhile because it can cause a person to try to bring to himself things that are of real value.

One such “acquisition” is having a good wife, whose value exceeds that of fine pearls (see Mishlei 31:10). Since a person’s desire for valuable acquisitions is engrained within him, the desire was expanded further than its original goal. However, it is best if a person can limit the desire to that which is of value at its root, in other words where it brings real benefit and not just imagined benefit, and causes true, not fake results. [Such an example is a wife with good actions.]
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