As Martha Stewart ends her five-month prison sentence for
lying about insider stock trading and the trial of Bernard J. Ebbers winds
down, in which the former chief of WorldCom is accused of committing multibillion-dollar
fraud, we also read in the Torah about the enormous financial contributions
made to the Temple.
Apropos, here is part two of a paper on the uses and abuses
WHAT IS WEALTH AND MONEY?
A significant insight into the Torah’s attitude toward
wealth is illustrated in the incident in which Korach and
his cohorts mutiny against Moses and the hierarchy. They
challenged the class system and Moses and Aaron’s
leadership and authority demanding: “Why did you empower
yourselves when the entire nation is holy.”
 One can say that this
was the first documented instance of rebellion against class
struggle.  The Bible relates that they were
duly punished. In all other incidences of wrongdoing, the
individual was punished, however, here, since their wealth
and status drove their rebellion, they and their belongings
were consumed by the earth: “they and their houses,
along with all the men who were with Korach and their property,”
“they, along with their houses, their tents, and all
the substance that was at their feet.”
Torah does not as a result
categorically reject the value of wealth and repeal mans’ right to private
property. Nor does it revoke the distinctions of classes (as Korach argued),
and its inevitable result: class struggle. Torah retains all that, despite
the risks involved.
But what is the Torah’s
answer to Korach’s contentions that all the people are equal?
For this we need to explore
the very nature and root of wealth.
In explaining the abovementioned verse “All the substance
(yekum) that was at their feet,”
 the Talmud states:  “this is mans’ wealth,  which firmly puts (establishes)
him on his feet.” 
Clearly, the Talmud sees wealth as a virtue: It establishes a person.  However,
it seems strange that a verse relating the destruction caused
by wealth (how Dathan and Aviram, along with their wealth,
are consumed by the earth as a result of their selfish greed)
should be the Talmudic source in describing the positive
virtue of wealth! If anything, this verse teaches us the
vices of wealth and its ill effects!
Perhaps this can be understood by analyzing the precise choice of words used
in the sentence: If the verse wants to tell us that their
wealth was consumed along with them, why does the verse
not just say: “with all their wealth” (as the
Bible actually states earlier when this incident is first
related  )
rather than the cryptic “all that exists that were at their
feet”?! Even if we are to understand “kol ha’yekum” as “all
their wealth/property,” why add: “that were at their feet”?!
And why the word “feet” instead of “in their possession”
or the like?
The Talmud is teaching
us the dual nature of wealth. In this material world wealth is the foundation
upon which all rests. Yet, like a foundation, it rests below, at the feet
of the structure, holding it up, like the feet that carry the body. Wealth
and money, like feet, are not the mind nor heart, they are the lowest part
of the body that touch the ground. Feet are means, not the end.
They carry the body, but do not dictate where the body is to be carried. The
mind does that, and the feet follow the mind’s instructions. Yet, without
feet, a mind alone – indeed, the entire body – cannot move. In this material
world, the feet are crucial for transportation- they are the vehicle which
carry a person to his desired destination.
Wealth, which establishes man on his feet, is only a means
to fulfill a higher goal, to realize a greater purpose.
When wealth becomes an end unto itself, it consumes man
and becomes a “land that consumes its inhabitants.”  This
is precisely what happens to Dathan and Aviram: their selfish
use of wealth – earthiness – consumed them and
all their wealth “that lay at their feet” touching
the very ground. When wealth itself becomes more important
than the goal, it can cause a person to stand upright in
 where his feet and wealth are more important
than the destination, Ultimately such a person will be consumed
by the very wealth he worships.
But when wealth is used
as a means for a greater good, it becomes the feet and foundation that establish
a man and society, lifting and carrying him to great heights. Like the feet
that are essential to lift and carry a person, with all his higher faculties,
to places he could not have reached to on his own.
The power of wealth as a foundation causes it to have such
a powerful impact on man
 and society. “Odom
bohul al momono,”  man
is excited when his wealth is at stake. Man is consumed
by acquiring wealth. Wealth, like feet, is the lowest entity,
but can lift one to the greatest heights. It can bring man
down to the lowest depths, or it can be a vehicle to extraordinary
Despite Korach, Dathan
and Aviram’s blatant abuse of wealth, the Torah does not fear its inherent
risks. When understood in context, and spelling out the dangers and actual
destructive consequences of individual wealth, the Torah has confidence in
man to use his wealth accordingly. The Korach episode teaches us the risks
of self-absorbed materialistic abuse, and its subsequent effect of consuming
the very perpetrators; yet, at the same time, this is due to mans’
weakness, not the fault of the wealth per se, which still lies on the
ground, waiting to lift man to great heights.
So too regarding the
class system. Despite Korach’s strong and persuasive argument against social
classes, and his legitimate reason for rebellion (testified by the fact that
Moses reckoned with him and needed to prove that Korach was wrong, and the
Torah documents for posterity the entire episode, including Korach’s argument,
indicating its timeless relevance) due to the inevitable class struggle that
would ensue as a result of class distinctions, nevertheless the Torah maintains
and validates with even more adamance the class system and hierarchy, as subsequently
related in the Bible.
The Torah is sensitive to and respects the inherent diversity
in existence and in society,
 and thus teaches
us to align ourselves (rather than battle) with our base
diversity, and channel it to a higher goal. 
[Here is not the place,
but a comprehensive study deserves to be made in the parallels between Korach’s
rebellion and that of socialist thought. Much can be derived from Korach’s
story teaching us about the nature of class diversity and struggle, the nature
of leadership and its relationship with the mass population.]
Wealth, in effect, reflects
this inherent diversity, which is the foundation that establishes man on his
This is the Talmud’s inimitable method of defining wealth
for us, in brief, succinct terms, when analyzed offer profound
meaning, with far-reaching implications.