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WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?

by Rabbi David Zauderer    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Long before game shows, Monty Hall (remember him?), the Wheel of Fortune, and Regis Philbin entered into our lives, our Torah sages pondered this very same question—who wants to be a real millionaire?—in that amazing book of Jewish wisdom and insight, “Ethics of our Fathers.” Guess what answer they came up with?

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Long before game shows, Monty Hall (remember him?), the Wheel of Fortune, and Regis Philbin entered into our lives, our Torah sages pondered this very same question—who wants to be a real millionaire?—in that amazing book of Jewish wisdom and insight, “Ethics of our Fathers.” Guess what answer they came up with?

“Eizehu Asir? Ha’sameiach B’chelkoh—Who is truly rich? He who is happy with what he has.” It’s that simple! If you’e happy with what you have, then you have it all. And if you’re not happy with what you have, then you have nothing at all. Unlike the prevalent mentality that “he who dies with the most toys wins,” our sages are teaching us true Jewish values which we can live by—“he who lives with the most joys wins.” Wealth is in the mind, not in the wallet.

Of course, as with any other important lesson in life, it takes some thought and understanding to learn how to be happy with what G-d has given us. It doesn’t come naturally. As the saying goes, “You can’t become a millionaire overnight.”

As a start, we can gain insight into the secret of true happiness from the Hebrew word for a millionaire— “Ashir,” spelled withthe Hebrew letters ayin, shin, yud, and reish. These four letters begin the Hebrew terms for eyes (einayim), teeth (shinayim), hands (yadayim), and feet (raglayim). When you have all these parts of your body in working order, you are indeed wealthy. If you do not believe this, visit any hospital and observe the people confined there. You will soon see how fortunate you are. As an old Arabian proverb has it, “I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man without feet.”

Many of the Torah’s commandments are there to help us realize just how rich we truly are. For example, we teach our children from a very young age that when they leave the restroom, they should recite the “asher yatzar” blessing, in which we thank G-d for the ability to use the bathroom! Dennis Prager once translated this blessing in a speech he gave and the crowd was cracking up. They thought that the notion of a blessing in which you thank G-d for the ability to relieve yourself was hilarious! Well it is—until you experience the problem for yourself, and then it’s not so funny. So, you see, we who have the ability to see beautiful sunsets, or to hug our children when we come home from work— even if we aren’t living in prime real estate in Buckhead—we are truly millionaires.

The key that unlocks the riches in all things is the ability to be happy with your immediate circumstances, no matter what they are. This is a skill that is within our reach; it does not depend on the fulfillment of desires or the satisfaction of needs. And it is a skill that we can’t afford to be happy or wealthy without.

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Rabbi David Zauderer is a card-carrying member of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.

You are invited to read more Parshat Shmot articles.

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