As originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post on September 14, 2017.
Yikes. Rosh Hashana is in a few days. While there are many symbols that highlight Rosh Hashana, for me it’s all about honey cake. Yes, I like honey cake but in my family, the problem is that I am the only one. Everyone else thinks it’s “gross”. Well if any family members are reading this, how about throwing me a bone this year and make some honey cake for me!
Obviously, the main symbol of Rosh Hashana is the Shofar. Rabbi Saadia Gaon gives 10 reasons for why we blow the Shofar. One reason he gives is that on Rosh Hashana we celebrate the coronation of G-d as King of the universe. Just like we sound a trumpet at a coronation, the Shofar announces G‑d’s continued kingship.
Another reason he gives is that the Shofar, made of a ram’s horn, reminds us of the binding of Isaac and the ram G-d provided as a sacrifice in his place. This helps us remember the faith of the Patriarchs and our ability for self-sacrifice.
The reason he gives that I would like to focus on is that on Rosh Hashanah, the first of the Ten Days of Repentance, we awake from our spiritual slumber. The Shofar is like an alarm that calls on us to examine our deeds and correct our ways, as we return to G‑d.
Not just spiritual
The simple sounds of the Shofar are a wake-up call for us to get back to basics. We need to make a break with our behavior of the last year and focus on what’s really important. It’s the time to stop rationalizing how great we have been acting and be true to ourselves; maybe we aren’t the amazing people we think we are. While it seems that Rosh Hashana, and for that matter, Yom Kippur as well, is all about spiritual improvement, money plays a pretty big role on both days as well.
“R. Judah son of R. Shalom preached as follows: In the same way as a man’s earnings are determined for him from New Year, so his losses are determined for him from New Year.” Tractate Baba Batra 10a
On Rosh Hashana, our income is determined. In the Yom Kippur service, we read the prayers of the High Priest which are mostly about the financial well being of the Jewish people for the upcoming year.
It’s not complicated
Over the last year, I have helped counsel numerous families try and get out of debt and to start living within their means. If there is one phrase that sums up all of the financial mess these families are in, it’s “if you don’t have the money; don’t buy it!”
Too often people complain and say that if they made more money they would be able to invest and save, but they can’t because they don’t make enough. Well, I have news for them. There are plenty of people who earn very large salaries, but still land up in overdraft at the end of the month. The reason is that they have absolutely no idea how much money they are spending or exactly where it is going.
The first step in getting back to financial basics is to make a budget. When you know what you are actually earning and what your expenses are, you’ll probably be surprised to find that there could be something left at the end of the month. When creating a budget, make sure that it is realistic, matches your lifestyle and that it leaves plenty of room for extra expenses that seem to pop up regularly (like a broken fridge or dental work). Add a monthly savings goal to the budget. Although nobody said it’s easy saving on an Israeli salary, as with most things in life, it can be accomplished with hard work.
You don’t need to buy everything
Whenever you are about to buy something stop and think if it’s something needed or something that you just want to have. If it’s just a want, say no and don’t buy it. Much of what we buy are “want’s” and not “needs”. Just because your neighbor decides to make a large purchase or take the family away to a 5-star hotel for all of Sukkot, doesn’t mean that you need to do the same thing if you can’t afford it. While there is nothing wrong with spending your hard-earned money, it just needs to be done in a responsible manner.
Now is the time
The most important advice is just to start. Start small. When it comes to doing teshuvah (repentance), we are not expected to become perfect individuals overnight, and we need to start small and work day by day to improve ourselves spiritually. The same idea applies to our finances. You don’t have to wait until you have $250,000 to start. If you have $20-30,000 sitting around in the bank start investing and getting your finances in order.
May we all merit a happy and healthy new year. Ketivah v’Chatimah Tovah.
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 the 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.