The economy is having great difficulty. Should you be happy?
We determine happiness by what we "have" financially. Money, stocks, 401(k) and various investments. That is where many people go wrong. Their perceived happiness goes up or down like the stock market depending on how the economy is doing.
Money itself is not a measure of worth. Money is a means, not an end. We may have lived for money, worked for it and sacrificed many evening and weekend hours trying to manage and grow money, but in the process, what did we do? We gave up time with our family and community, all for the money. Sadly, we never had money - it had us.
Money is a tool for life, not the other way around. What we give is more ours than what we gain. Money we make never truly belongs to us and will disappear at some point. However, if we give to charity, if we are positive, if we spend as much time as possible with our family and children, then we will not only be "wealthy" but we will have something that can never be taken from us. It is ours forever.
One of the heads of the House of Rothschild was asked how much his great fortune totaled. His answer was an amount much less than his known worth. Rothschild explained that the amount he told was what he gave to charity. This, he said, was his true worth, as that amount will never be taken from him, whereas, the rest of the money can easily come and go.
Bernie Madoff, the $65 billion thief, burned so many people because they simply followed the crowd. What people should be doing is not following the crowd, but following the word of God. Throughout our storied history, during extraordinary trials and tribulations, the Torah's divine wisdom was our lifeline, providing guidance and succor.
Especially important is thanking God for every little thing he gives us and acknowledging that what we have taken for granted so far was a luxury. A writer in Jerusalem summed it up by telling us "It's not the end of the world. God has kept us so far and will continue to support us."
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, said, "Money is soul-energy; it represents the very energy of life itself. Depending how you use it, it can either free you or enslave you."
With this in mind, I urge you now to free yourself and give even more to charity. It may appear that by doing so you will reduce your financial resources. However, if you recognize that it is God's blessing that is the ultimate source of wealth, then charity becomes a wise investment. Increasing your charity will increase God's blessing for wealth. Our sages say, "Give charity, so that you may prosper." Even if you cannot be as generous as you want financially, when it comes to giving of yourself, there is nothing too small and nothing too great.
Rabbi Zvi Konikov is director of Chabad of the Space and Treasure Coasts, 1190 A1A, Satellite Beach. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.