the schmooze


Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York


Ameritrade has been running an ad which shows a young man standing over the sink shaving.  The caption reads:


And, Jim Cramer, the wildly animated cheerleader for the stock market urged stockholders to dump their holdings as quickly as possible.  (Cramer is forecasting a 20% stock market crash.)

These are hard times for all of us.  Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote (10/7/08), "Jews today have financial but not spiritual power  We are known as great businessmen but not great spiritual lights.

Don't believe me?  Try the following word association with your non-Jewish friends. Say 'day,' and they'll say 'night.'  Say 'boy,' and they'll say 'girl.'  Say 'Jew,' and in most cases, they'll say 'money.'  Not because they're anti-Semitic, but because that's what the word Jew conjures up for most people.  That Jews have money, are good at making money, desire money, and are very generous with their money once they have it."

When "Fiddler on the Roof" opened on Broadway in 1962 and played to capacity houses for over 3,000 performances, the audience heard Tevye sing, "If I Were a Rich Man":

  If I were a rich man
  Daidle deedle daidle
  Digguh digguh deedle daidle dum,
  All day long I'd biddy biddy bum,
  If I were a wealthy man.

  Wouldn't have to work hard...

The lyrics make us question:  "What does it mean to be rich?" 
J. Paul Getty was one of the richest men in America.  But when his eleven-year-old son died, how much was he worth that day?

And then there's the story of two little girls who live in a small town in Italy.  They were invited by their neighbor for a snack.  The neighbor woman gave them some hot cocoa and cookies, which the children delightedly consumed.  Presently, one of the little girls looked up and said, "Are you rich?"

The woman looked around at her worn furniture and replied, "Of course not.  We are not rich at all."

"But look!" said the little girl, "Your cup and saucer match."
   (Source:  "Heart of Wisdom" by Bernard S.Raskas)

Well, now in answer to the question, "Does God Want Us To Be 'Raykh'?"

The megapastor and author, Joel Osteen, said, "I think God wants us to be prosperous.  I think he wants us to be happy.  I think he wants us to enjoy our lives.  I don't think I'd say God wants us to be rich."

Rick Warren ("The Purpose Driven Life") says, "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?  There is a word for that: baloney."

Carolyn Castleberry ("Women, Take Charge of Your Money") says that "God wants us to be spiritually rich, but that doesn't always involve money."

Rabbi Janet Marder, Cong. Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, CA, gave a sermon on this topic on March 24, 2000.  With her permission, I've included portions of that sermon:

"To begin with, we find no Jewish text that says straight out:  'Thou shalt not make a lot of money' or 'Thou shalt not want to make a lot of money.'  Nor does the Torah says that 'money is the root of all evil.' Money's not evil, for Jews.  It's neutral - it's moral value depends on what we do with it."

She continues, "Our rabbis warn against conspicuous consumption and ostentatious displays of wealth - not only because it is wasteful, but because of how it makes those who aren't wealthy feel.  The Talmud says that at one time the rich were given lavish, elaborate funerals, but Rabban Gamliel put a stop to this because it shamed the poor; all Jews should henceforth be buried in a plain pine box. In the Middle Ages Jewish community leaders often established 'sumptuary laws' to restrict what they regarded as inappropriate displays of wealth in food, clothing and entertainment; some modern Jewish communities have tried to do the same thing with B'nai Mitzvah celebrations."

And Rabbi Yosi, the practical one, said, "A wealthy person is one who has a bathroom near his dining room table." (Apparently in Talmudic times, this was a great luxury.)

Shown below are a number of Yiddish expressions which deal with money/"gelt":

"Nakhes fun kinder iz tayere fun gelt." (Joy from children is more precious than money.)

"Fun glik tsum umglik iz nor a shpan; fun umglik tsum glik iz a shtik veg."
(From fortune to misfortune is a short span; from misfortune to fortune is a long way.)

"A kabtsn blayht a kabtsn." (A pauper remains a pauper.)

"Oyf dray zakhn shteyt di velt; oyf gelt, oyf gelt, un oyf gelt."
(The world stands on three things: money, money and money.)

"Oyf gelt shteyt di velt."
(Money supports the world.)

"Es iz nit azoy gut mit gelt, vi es iz shlekht on gelt."
(It is not so much that it's good to have money, as it's bad to be without it.)

"Got hob lib der oreman un helft der nogid." (God loves the poor and helps the helps the rich.)

"Oremkayt iz onshstek'nd, vayl verstu orem loyf'n fun dir ale."
(People run from poverty as if it were contagious.)


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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