As originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post on April 13, 2017.
Like spiritual growth, building wealth is a process.
The Passover Seder is behind us and now it’s time to start counting. The Torah states in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the first ‘omer’ of your harvest to the priest… And from the day on which you bring the omer of elevation offering – the day after the Sabbath – you shall count off seven weeks.”
There are many reasons for why we count the 49 days between the second night of Passover and Shavuot, Sefirat Haómer. According to the Baal Haturim it’s so the workers will know when Shavuot is: “There are those who explain that the reason for the counting of the omer is that [the days of the omer] are the days of harvesting and the people are busy [working in the fields] and are not in their homes. They could therefore not be reached by the messengers of the courts to be informed when the new month begins. God therefore commanded us to count the days.”
Maimonides in his “Guide for the Perplexed” (3:43) says that the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai was the culmination of the exodus from Egypt. Just as one who anticipates meeting a loved one counts the weeks and days until he sees her, so too we anxiously count the days and weeks until we reenact the receiving of the Torah on Shavuot. There are questions about this opinion but they are well beyond the scope of this column.
Another answer is given by Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort, who writes: “We also learn that this period is meant to spiritually prepare and refine ourselves. When the Jewish people were in Egypt nearly 3,400 years ago, they had assimilated many of the immoral ways of the Egyptians. The Jews had sunk to an unprecedented level of spiritual defilement, and were on the brink of destruction. At the last possible moment, the children of Israel were miraculously redeemed. They underwent a spiritual rebirth and quickly ascended to the holiest collective state they had ever reached. They were so holy, in fact, that they were compared to angels when they stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah. It was during that 49-day period that they underwent such a radical transformation. From the lowest lows to the highest heights in just seven weeks!”
Sounds like an advertisement for some kind of fad diet!
Like spiritual growth, building wealth is a process. You can’t expect to invest today and become a millionaire tomorrow, it takes time. People may fool themselves into thinking that they can close their eyes, sing some songs while jumping up and down and instantly become on a level reserved for angels, but this is a fleeting spirituality. In order to really elevate ourselves we need to work to be better people on a daily basis. In seven weeks we can look back and see just how far we’ve come.
It’s the same with building wealth. Become responsible financially, live within your means and start saving money. It’s not easy and you may have some setbacks, but if you want to have a secure financial future you have no choice.
Living in constant debt is not the way to financial security. It’s a black hole. Through volunteering, I have worked with many individuals who spend three to four hours a day running around to get loans to pay off previous loans. If you can’t pay off the first loan, you won’t have money to pay off successive loans. You sink further into debt, and it becomes much harder to climb out of the hole.
Budget and save
Keep track of all income and expenses. Once you know how much is coming in, you can create a budget to ensure that you live responsibly and don’t go into overdraft. Don’t spend more than you bring in. If that means not eating out as much, or getting rid of your cable TV, so be it. The first line item in your budget should be “pay yourself first.” Take 10-15% of your income and put it into savings. Employer contributions into pension funds and Keren Hishtalmut will pretty much get you to the desired level. If you can put away more, great.
Use these seven weeks to get on track. Just like refining your character, the more good financial habits are reinforced, the more likely they will become habitual, and you can get yourself on track financially and avoid the pitfalls of financial mismanagement that plague so much of society.
The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates. Aaron Katsman is author of the book Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing (McGraw-Hill), and is a licensed financial professional both in the United States and Israel, and helps people who open investment accounts in the United States. Securities are offered through Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. (www.prginc.net). Member FINRA, SIPC, MSRB, FSI. For more information, call (02) 624-0995 visit www.aaronkatsman.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.