| Parshah |

Dollars and Sense

Spending money to raise one’s children b’derech haTorah is a holy undertaking


This is what everyone who goes through the counting should give: half a shekel according to the holy shekel…” (Shemos 30:13)




hy does the pasuk call it a holy shekel?
The word holy connotates separate and unique. The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:8) explains that the language of the Torah is called Lashon Hakodesh — holy language — because unlike other languages, the entire language consists only of words that are holy and pure.

Therefore, the Torah is teaching us that our money, our shekalim, also need to be kadosh — separate and unique for holy purposes only.

A person can give tzedakah and support chesed, and that’s meritorious. But if he also uses his money for poor reading material or for electronics that bring tumah into his house, then his money isn’t holy and neither is his home a Beis Hamikdash. (Rav Shimshon Pincus, Tiferes Shimshon)

The old adage goes: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” But I’d like to suggest that a penny spent is a lesson learned.

Way back when I was a newlywed, I was fiscally responsible. I had neat lists of all our expenditures and knew to the penny our income and outlay for each month. My notes resembled ledgers, including the price of tomatoes, potatoes, and plumbing woes.

Then, slowly, other notations started making their messy contributions down the page. Diapers… babysitting… formula. My neat calculations began to get complicated. If I worked an extra hour to earn overtime pay, but then took a taxi to get to the babysitter on time, did that count as profit or debit?

There was also the memorable month where my baby actually ate my paycheck, and I had to wait until the following month to receive a double salary. Such situations were throwing me off. By the time I was expecting my second child, my finances were in a fix.

Hashem showed Moshe a shekel made of fire to demonstrate this concept. One of the characteristics of fire is that it burns out impurities — cleansing and purifying. So, too, the money of person has to be fiery money, pure in both the way he earns it and the way he spends it.

Nowadays money flows like water, and I’ve thrown in the towel. I’ve given up on daily accounting and am just trying to keep my finger in the dike to delay the deluge.

“I need 20 shekels for Rebbi’s mishloach manos.”

“I left my winter coat right on my desk and it disappeared — poof!”

“We were just throwing the ball and it went through Goldbergs’ window. I don’t know why he’s making such a big deal of it. It’s just a piece of glass.”

I remind myself to offer daily thanks for my health… my arms and legs… despite paying the equivalent in my basic budget.

Spending money to raise one’s children b’derech haTorah is a holy undertaking. Yet a person must always be on the alert to ensure he’s not wasting his parnassah on luxuries and purchases that do not fit with Torah values. A Jew’s money is precious: The coins in his pocket are coins of fire, and it’s incumbent upon us to keep them holy. Only then will they bring holy brachah to our households.

My brother-in-law summed up this concept beautifully in his devar Torah at my grandson’s pidyon haben. Compared to the many brissim I’ve merited attending, I’ve only been to a handful of pidyonei haben, which made the experience all the more meaningful as I gazed at my daughter’s firstborn, resplendent on his silver tray bedecked with shining jewelry.

“Why do we pay the Kohein money to redeem our firstborn?” asked my brother-in-law. “Do you know any father who’d rather cut costs and pocket the coin instead of his baby? Yet here we’re teaching the new parents a lesson for life. Children cost money. And we must daven and be grateful if that money spent is used for a mitzvah.”

So, while I may not have neat figures of checks and balances, I’m eternally indebted to my children for the nachas they generate that always pays off.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 684)

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