Why do we pray for a life of riches and honor? Is that what counts?

In the blessing for the new month we ask for riches but if we don't have riches does that mean we are rejected by G-d?

Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple ,

Rabbi Raymond Apple
Rabbi Raymond Apple
Larry Brandt

Q. Why do we pray for "a life of riches and honour" in the blessing for the New Moon? Does it really matter so much whether someone has riches?

A. Many of us who are not so well endowed ask this question every month when we bensch Rosh Chodesh.

We wonder, does our lack of affluence mean God has rejected our plea for chayyim shel osher? Or is there something wrong with us ourselves that we do not seem to succeed in making money? Are we failures or nobodies?

It probably all depends on what the prayer means by riches. Maybe it is thinking of the passage in Pirkei Avot (4:1) which says, "Who is rich? He who is contented with his lot".

In other words, you can be rich in other ways than money. You are rich if you have a stable, settled personality, are at ease with yourself, have no major neuroses, and every morning can say, Baruch HaShem!

An example of this philosophy comes from the Rechov HaSabbalim, the Street of the Porters near the markets in Jerusalem, where there used to be a porter who would go about carrying his load and singing, "Ana HaShem, I’m happy! Baruch HaShem, I’m rich!"

When asked what he meant, the porter said, "What is the word for rich? Ashir. What do the letters of ashir stand for? Einayim, eyes; shinayim, teeth; yadayim, hands; raglayim, legs. I’m happy and rich because I have my eyes, my teeth, my hands and my legs."

He’s right – if you have your health, you’re rich!

But don’t you need some money too?

True, you do. But, as the Bible recognised all those centuries ago, it’s not worth it if you’ve gained your money less than honestly (Jer. 17:11, Hab. 2:6), or if money has become your obsession (Eccl. 5:9).

Nor is the money worth it if you use it to bully and bribe your family ("Do as I say or I’ll cut you out of my will!").

If you have money gained wisely and properly, use it wisely and properly. Disraeli said, "Great wealth is a great blessing to him who knows what to do with it."

The Talmud said that Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, compiler of the Mishnah, hayah mechabbed ashirim – "used to honour rich people" – because he knew the rich were useful to society, and could give charity and support the community.

Insights in to the coming Shabbat's Torah Reading

The Merit of the Children

The sidra focusses on the patriarch Jacob’s dying wish for his children.

Because of the merits of Jacob there are descendants whose proudly bear the name of Bet Yaakov or – utilising Jacob’s other name of Israel – Bet Yisra’el.

The notion is that the righteousness of the ancestor (Z’chut Avot) brings merit to the children.

The Anglo-Jewish scholar Israel Abrahams used to say that there was a counterpart, Z’chut Yeladim, the Merits of the Children – "the idea that the righteousness of the living child favourably affects the fate of the dead ancestor."

Abrahams says, "The real message of the dead is – their virtue. The real response of the living is again – their virtue".

The lesson we learn is so important. We think of ourselves as protected by the merits of our parents and ancestors. What we also have to realise is that we have a way to bring merit to our forebears.

Did Jacob ever find out?

After years of sorrow and sighing at home in Canaan, the old father was brought to Egypt by his son Joseph and he lived there for seventeen years. Eventually he died and he was buried by all his sons together.

Did he ever find out how Joseph had got to Egypt and what the brothers had done to him?

The text does not offer a decisive answer, and the commentators are divided. Some say that Jacob never found out, others that he knew but kept it to himself.

Presumably the brothers were ashamed of their actions and did not know how to handle the situation. Without their father, would Joseph bear them a grudge for the events of years before and make them suffer for their sin?

The text indicates this when it says that after the funeral they told Joseph that they were willing to become his slaves. Joseph responded, "Who do you think I am, God? You meant me harm but God used the situation for good. Have no fear: I will look after you and your children."