Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Yom Kippur Thoughts

I bought a watch from an Argentinian friend for my wife's birthday. As we concluded the purchase, we wished each other and the country well.

The current financial crisis evoked for him memories of Argentina's difficulties a few years ago, when bank after bank closed their doors. Wealthy people were reduced to poverty. Thank G-d they have mostly recovered.

How much did banks measure their wealth by perceptions.?A bank could hold the deed to a million dollar mortgage. But it was only good as long as the borrower could pay. And what happens when a house loses value? What makes a house lose value? The Hebrew term for a home owner is a baal habayis. This translates as "master of the house". How many of us are really slaves to the roof over our head? Banks find ways to raise interest on our assorted loans like a tread mill that goes faster and faster. And when we fail, they ultimately fail. An adversarial relationship helps no one whether we like it or not.

How many countries have fabulous wealth in the ground that evaporates because it is mishandled? The Congo has gold and diamonds as well as mineral wealth. Argentina could have been as wealthy as any country in Europe. What derailed them from greatness was the political culture. It was people who enriched themselves at the expense of the country.

America and Europe are up against the same obstacles. Human nature and human goodness can produce wealth. Selfishness ultimately leads to collective poverty. Employers can choose to exploit their employees. Banks can bleed their borrowers without mercy. And employees can bleed their companies into insolvency. They are all drilling holes in the boat they share.

Working together we can create abundance. Our planet has an operating manual. G-d did not set us adrift without a map. Every G-d given law is for the common good.

The expression "smart money" is unwittingly profound. It points to the truth that wealth has no intelligence of its own. It is an extension of what we make it. And what we make of wealth depends on what we make of ourselves. The wealth within ourselves and the goodness in human relationships does not exist separately from money in the bank.

On Yom Kippur, rich and poor wear the same white garment. It is one of the garments in which a man is buried. The choice of attire is an opportunity to focus on matters other than material wealth, to focus on the endless riches of an imortal soul and the power of everyone to coin good deeds.

We can, we should, we must carry this awareness into the year ahead

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