As the story was told to me, one of the richest men in the entire world wrote in his will a request to be buried wearing his socks. The family wanted to fill the wishes of their father but the burial society said that it is impermissible to fulfill this request. To settle the issue both parties went to the Rav of the city who after hearing both sides declared that … .
Don’t go away, as we will come back to the Rav’s decision later, along with an inspiring twist in this unusual story.
Most people live their lives focused on two major financial goals, that of satisfying ones daily needs and securing a comfortable future “retirement”. In Pirkei Avos, which we read this time period between Pesach and Rosh Hashanah, our Sages offer us weekly advice on how to obtain both.
The holy Torah sub-divides all potential investments of into two major sectors/categories. The first being a composite of two hundred forty eight – top rated – investments that are to be pursued with all ones abilities referred to as the mitzvos aseh fund and the second consists of three hundred sixty five – lo-saaseh which are to be avoided at all costs.
As most of us our novice investors we should take advice from the most qualified investment experts in the field. Thus let us turn to our Sages, who opening share with us the best possible strategies for maximizing our assets as well as minimizing our loses.
The first of many beautiful metaphors that alerts us the value of daily adding to our “savings” account is in Gemora Shabbos 127a: “These are the precepts whose fruits a person enjoys in this world but whose principal remains intact for him in the World to Come. They are (the investment sectors of): honoring your father and mother, acts of kindness, early attendance at the house of study morning and evening, hospitality to guests, visiting the sick, providing for a bride, escorting the dead, intention in prayer, bringing peace between man and his fellow, and between man and his wife – and the study of Torah is equivalent to them all.”
In Mishnah 20 – Perek 3 Rabbi Tarfon gives us additional far-sighted advice informing us: “The day is short, the task is abundant, the laborers are lazy, the wage is great and the Master of the house is insistent.” He also used to say (2/20-21): “You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it. If you have studied much Torah, they will give you great reward; and your Employee can be relied upon to pay you the wage for your labor, but be aware that the reward of the righteous will be given in the World to Come.”
Rabbi Yonasan reveals to us the secret to true wealth in Mishnah 11 – Perek 4: “Whoever fulfills the Torah despite poverty, will ultimately fulfill it in wealth; but whoever to neglects the Torah because of wealth, will ultimately neglect it in poverty.”
Rabbi Yaakov then alerts to us the importance of using our time wisely in Mishnah 21 – Perek 4 when he said: “This world is like a lobby before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall.”
Ben Bag Bag elaborates further on the value of plummeting the depths of ones abilities in Mishnah 26 – Perek 5 when he said: “Delve in it (the Torah) and continue to delve in it; look deeply into it; grow old and gray over it, do not stir from it, for you can have no better portion that it.” Ben Hei Hei adds that reward and effort have a symbiotic relationship in that: “The reward is in proportion to the exertion.”
Mishnah 5 – Perek 6: Offers us some sage advice on what to avoid, thereby maximizing our benefits: “Do not seek greatness for yourself, and do not crave honor; lest your performance exceed your learning. Do not the lust for the table of Kings, for your table is greater than theirs, and your crown is greater than their crown; and your Employer is trustworthy to pay you remuneration for your deeds.”
Then in Mishnah 9 – Perek 6 – Rabbi Yose ben Kisma shares with us invaluable investing strategy when he tells us of a story of a man who offered him vast wealth for coming and living in his city, to which he answered: “Even if you were to give me all the silver and gold, precious stones and pearls in the world, I would dwell nowhere but in a place of Torah…”
Rabbi Akiva then eloquently sums up our financial responsibilities within this life stating in Mishnah 20 – Perek 3: “Everything is given on collateral and a net is spread over all the living. The shop is open; the Merchant extends credit; the ledger is open; the hand writes; and whoever wishes to borrow, let him come and borrow. The collectors make their routes constantly, every day, and collect payment from the person whether he realizes it or not. They have proof to rely upon; the judgment is a truthful judgment; and everything is prepared for the final festive banquet.”
Oh yes, as for the conclusion of the story at the beginning of this article – the Rav told all those present that the burial society was correct and then the Rav then added that the nifter had some time earlier left a sealed envelope which he requested be opened by his family only after his passing. The children immediately opened the letter and read it out loud. “My dearly beloved, by now you have heard the pasak halacha which reaffirms that even if a person were to have all the money in this world, he cannot bring with him even one pair of socks to the Olam HaEmes.
This is just as Rabbi Yose ben Kisma informs us in Mishnah 9 Perek 6: “When a man departs from this world, neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones nor pearls escort him, but only Torah study and good deeds…” Then he concludes: “It (The Torah and good deeds) shall speak on your behalf – in the World to Come. And as it is said: ‘Mine is the silver, and Mine is the gold, says Hashem, Master of Legions.’”
May we merit to have our Heavenly bank accounts filled with the rich returns from the Torah, mitzvos and maasim tovim in which we invested in this world
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