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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 31, 2009 / 11 Elul 5769

Be too wealthy?

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir





http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. Is it fair for Wall Street traders to be making tens of millions of dollars a year?


A. As we pointed out in recent columns, this question has several levels. The narrowest applies specifically to traders: is this a legitimate profession? The second considers more broadly the question of large incomes for salaried employees. In this column, we discuss the broadest level of the question: Is it really fair or appropriate for anyone to be making tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and enjoying an extravagant lifestyle?


Jewish tradition has a nuanced view on this question. In Jewish tradition and Jewish history, obtaining wealth is considered legitimate both socially and religiously as long as a person gives charity, remains scrupulous in religious observance, and above all remembers to acknowledge G-d as his benefactor. Among the most renowned Jewish sages of many generations we find some who were fabulously wealthy and maintained a commensurate lifestyle. This begins with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all of whom are described in the Torah as being extremely wealthy, includes Talmudic sages such as Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi who was one of the wealthiest individuals in the Middle East in his time, and more recent examples such as Rabbi David Oppenheim, a seventeenth-century rabbi of great wealth alongside his great learning, from a prominent banking family.


However, Jewish tradition also reminds us that fulfilling these conditions is not practical for every individual. Wealth can be a blessing, but it is always a challenge and for many people it is so challenging that it is not a blessing at all. Modern economics has as an axiom that more is always better for every individual, but Judaism would agree more with the traditional view that there is an ideal amount for each individual, and that just as a person can be too poor, so a person can be too rich — all based upon a person's character and capacity for enjoyment and appreciation of material well-being.


The book of Proverbs (30:8-9) states: "Give me neither poverty and riches; provide me with my daily bread. Lest I become sated and deny, saying, 'Who is the Lord?', or lest I become impoverished and become careless with [oaths in] G-d's name."


Wealth and poverty each have their unique challenges. A wealthy person has a tendency to attribute his wealth to his own ability, and deny G-d's providence; a poor person has a tendency to take ethical shortcuts, including taking false oaths. Thus the author of Proverbs asks to be protected from each of these risks.


These challenges are different for each individual. One person is best off in modest circumstances and is distracted from G-d's service with even minimal excess, while another has the capacity for enjoying great wealth while still acknowledging G-d's beneficence, and feels deprived in modest surroundings. Standards also different from era to era and from place to place.


I do not doubt that there are individuals of refined taste and sensibility who are able to obtain great wealth, even income of millions of dollars a year, and still enjoy their wealth and maintain a sense of gratitude to G-d. I also have no doubt that these individuals are few, and that most people are better off with more sublunary salaries.


The important thing is that each person knows when to say "enough". When the patriarch Jacob sent a huge gift of hundreds of animals to his brother Esau, Esau offered to decline the gift, saying, "I have much." But Jacob insisted on giving them anyway, saying "I have everything" (Genesis 33:9-11). It would not be precise to say that Jacob was content with little insofar as he was very wealthy. What is important is that Jacob was content with what he had, with what G-d provided him.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology.

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© 2009, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics