27 Heshvan 5769; November 25, 2008

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Segulot for Financial Stability
By HaRav Ariel Bar Tzadok. Copyright (C) 2008 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
We all know about the present state of the economy. All of us, in one way or another are experiencing difficult times. Times like this have come and gone in the past. Our present circumstances will also eventually change. However, I do not believe that we have as yet hit the bottom. I believe times will be getting worse before they will be getting better.

At times like this, it is important, that we as religious/spiritual people remember that everything that transpires, be it for good or bad, is preordained by the higher Hand of Heaven.

Our present economic concerns must not be detached from the greater global picture of what is going on in the world. Any student of the Torah, Jewish Bible and later Rabbinic literature clearly sees reflected in unfolding current events an uncanny reflection of pre-Messianic prophecies. Yet, most are not scholars in these areas and while many people see the similarities, most do not know exactly what the pre-messianic scenario is and how long it is supposed to last.

Messianic predictions, rumors and alleged sayings from numerous Rabbis spread like wildfire throughout the world, via the internet and word of mouth. To the best of my knowledge absolutely every one of these rumors has been proven false. There are so many lies spreading around that a suspicious mind might wonder if there is really a dark hand behind all this spreading about of false information. No one can tell, and frankly no one should care. We should never waste our time on things we cannot know. Instead, we should focus only on those things that we can know.

We do know that the Mashiah will eventually come, someday; and we wait daily for that blessed event. This being said, and our religious obligation fulfilled; let us now turn to the issues at hand; what can we do to make it through our present difficult circumstances? Waiting for Mashiah to swoop down from Heaven riding on his great white horse to save us from our troubles is a fantasy best left for young children. The messianic salvation will come, supernaturally I believe (at least judging by today's standards), but it will come in its time. Until this time, let us address our issues.

Financial hardships at this time were inevitable. The path of global economic spending was (and is) irresponsible and wasteful at best. A list of all the mistakes made in the global economies is too long and detailed for this essay. Indeed, such enumerations for the layman are a waste of time. We cannot address the problems in the global economy, so why waste time to talk about them?

We each have enough of our own problems and there are rational, however difficult steps that we can take in order to address them. Now, here is the problem. Although many of us work for big companies and we understand how to address the economic troubles at a company level, we often fail to apply the same logic and common sense to our own personal lives.

The first segulah (magic formula) for financial stability is the use of common sense when making decisions that will affect our financial future. I am sure everyone agrees with this and considers this to be a "no-brainier.' Yet, let me continue and let us see if indeed your brain is indeed rationally engaged and also to determine where exactly is your heart.

In times of financial difficulties businesses are required by the law of practicality to "tighten their belts" and cut all unnecessary spending. This may include some desperate measures. But in the end, money not wasted on excess is money that can be applied to actual needs. Here is segulah #1: if you want to secure more money, stop wasting a lot of the monies that you already have.

Start to cut corners everywhere, especially in those little things, which individually may not be expensive, but when combined and viewed in the long-run add up to a significant chuck of change. Always remember this, G-d loves practicality, and Heaven always smiles on frugality. Wasteful spending is a waste of the blessings and resources that G-d gives us. It is in essence an insult to G-d and a slap in the face to Heaven. We must take care to be better guardians of that which Heaven safeguards into our hands.

In difficult times, frivolous spending should include purchasing any and all goods and services that one can either provide for oneself or otherwise acquire at a better, cheaper price elsewhere. Saving a few pennies by going from one gas station to the next is one thing, but, for example, what about all the excess funds we waste with our addiction to eating so many meals outside of our homes? One should make an accounting how much one spends on restaurant and fast food eating and add to this list the price of all the junk food that we regularly buy in the supermarkets.

Eating was supposed to be a necessity of life, but we have changed it into a major social event. How many meetings, social occasions and dating revolve around restaurants, why? What do we accomplish by eating together that we could not accomplish without it? We have too much food in our diets and lifestyles as it is. Many suffer from the ill affects of being overweight. So, here is another segulah, spend less money in restaurants and junk food, and you will have that excess money to apply to some other greater needs. And, at the same time, you will lose weight and become healthier, enabling you to accomplish more and maybe pay less for medical expenses. Like I said, common sense must rule, even over a reckless heart.

As I write these words, I can hear the complaints of many of my readers saying how difficult it is to cut back and how I do not understand their situations. For those of you who know me personally, you know that I care absolutely nothing for the many excuses people offer for continuing doing the wrong things. I only care about what is right and what is right is simple and clear to those who do not allow themselves to be confused by a bunch of mental rationalizations and external pressures.

Let me say this simple and straightforward. You want G-d to bless you? Yes? Then start making yourself to be an appropriate vessel to receive blessing.

G-d's mercies do not fall short and they never miss the mark. Think of Divine mercy as a big ball being thrown by a father to his child. All the father asks is for the child to raise their hands and to keep them up while in essence the father drops the ball into the child's hands. However, if the child drops his hands, then he also drops the ball. This is how it is with receiving Divine mercy. All G-d wants us to do is to raise our hands in prayer and faith and trust that he will drop the ball into our hands. Yet, we all too often are distracted and shift our attention away from Father and thus miss the ball when it comes our way. Father is not to blame. He is careful how He drops the ball easily into our hands. It is just that we allow so many other things to get in our way. So, whose fault is it when we miss the ball because we lack the focus and patience to wait for Father to just drop it into our hands?

The next segulah for financial stability is to simplify. We all have an over abundance of superfluous things that we waste so much precious energy and resources trying to hold on to. One who lightens one's load will find one's burden to be easier to bare. Again, this is more common sense that in these days is becoming more and more uncommon.

One of the great ways to solicit Divine support for oneself is for one to give to others. Whatever one has in excess, and to be honest, we all have excess, should be disposed of in a proper manner. One can either give away excess items for free to those who cannot afford to acquire them otherwise, or one can sell unused or unneeded items. One of the best and most generous ways to help one another is to cultivate a culture of barter trading between like-minded parties, be they friends or neighbors.

Not all exchanges of goods and services have to be valued based upon a currency of money. Indeed, being that value is a subjective thing, something that one has might be of great value to one party and totally without value to another. One can therefore trade one's goods and services to acquire specifically what one needs. Money never needs to trade hands and still what one needs can be acquired and what another needs can be fulfilled. This is true giving and receiving at the same time. The value of a trade and service is rendered subjectively to the individual. This way one can choose when to generously give freely or when to expect better compensation.

Not many are in a position where they have absolutely nothing and can give absolutely nothing. Such individuals are to be pitied and they should be helped to get back up on their feet. This is charity of the highest caliber. Just giving to them without expecting anything in return only reinforces a bad situation. Even those with nothing should be expected to give something in return, something more than just their gratitude.

There is an old saying, "give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime." By teaching another how he can help himself we are fulfilling the role ordained for us by our Creator. In essence we are fulfilling our role in becoming fully human. G-d will indeed carry us when our legs cannot stand on our own. But once we can stand on our own, G-d expects us to stand, then walk and eventually to run. G-d will not carry us all the while that we can stand and walk on our own.

If we cannot understand how we are to stand and walk on our own in financially hard times, then we had better learn how to reevaluate the situation. There are many different definitions of getting along. In times of trouble, getting along may have to be redefined as getting along with a whole lot less than we have been accustomed to in the past. This type of change also comes from Heaven to teach us it is not what we have that fulfills us and makes us important and happy, rather it is who we are as individuals, our personal moral character, the choices we make and how we live our lives that make us happy, fulfilled and important. There is no greater segulah that this.

Last, but not least, one must cast aside foolishness and superstition. One must stop believing fairy tales of nonsense that tells us that if one performs one of many different types of religious observances or customs that magically all of a sudden Heaven will shine down upon him abundances of riches and blessings. Torah denounces magic and condemns foolish superstitions especially those disguised as religious and pious observances.

The real magic is not found in one or another religious ceremony or ritual. Rather it is found in the hard work and righteous activity of human beings one towards the other. No magic, no mumbo-jumbo is going to help anyone. Mashiah will not magically come with some twinkle fairy dust to magically change the world. Such changes require a lot of hard work on our parts and will still take a long time to accomplish.

The messianic intervention will not be a natural human scenario as it is popularly and mythically portrayed now in many religious circles. Our job is not to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and to prepare for a time that we are not presently in a position to prepare for. Let all those who continue to believe so to follow in their path. We do need to argue with them theology and which of the opinions of the Sages are right and which are wrong. Such arguments are divisive and distracting. We have to keep our eyes on the ball if we ever expect to catch it when Father drops it into our hands.

Our behavior is what counts, not our theologies or philosophies. Behaving morally and honorably towards one another and providing for one another's needs in practical, realistic ways, these are the best segulot (magic formulas) for soliciting Divine blessings in especially hard times.

Let us cut back, if not cut out entirely, wasteful spending. Let us stop ascribing a monetary value to all goods and services and learn how to barter trade and more appropriately provide for each other needs. Let us trust in Heaven and remember the power that Heaven has already given us to help ourselves and each other.

THINK PRACTICALLY! Act upon these things; do not just think about them. We can get through these hard times and the harder times to come, but we must become more and more practical and start changing the way we live and the way we think about monetary exchange and financial worth. If we make the appropriate and necessary adjustments to the way we think, we will see the great changes that also come in the way we live. It thus may dawn upon us that the blessings from Heaven are already with us and that we might not be experiencing such hard times after all.

Whether or not times are tough really depends upon one's point of view. Change one's attitude and one can come to see the entire world in a different light. For those seriously desiring to prepare for Mashiah this attitude adjustment is the most important lesson facing us. Attitude adjustment leads to changes in lifestyle. This is turn leads to everything becoming different. This is how we weather hard times; this is how we realistically prepare for Mashiah. This is how we make our world a better place. These are practical and realistic segulot and unlike the mythical, magically kind, these really do work. Try them and see for yourself. The only thing you have to lose is your failures.


Shalom, HaRav Ariel Bar Tzadok

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