We all have a complex
relationship with our material wealth and possessions. As we approach Purim,
when we celebrate our unity through charitable gifts of charity and food;
as we read the Torah portion that addresses the Temple offerings, which were
meant to teach us how to offer our physical, lives to a higher purpose – it
is a most appropriate time to reflect on our attitudes to money and prosperity
and the way we navigate our way in this material world.
In this spirit, we bring you part four of Money and Spirituality, a paper
that explores the power of wealth.
A NEW LOOK AT HUMAN LABOR
The ‘soul’ look at wealth
turns the drive for wealth on its head: The true value of wealth is spiritual
value. Thus mans’ pursuit of wealth is essentially not a selfish endeavor
(regardless whether we are conscious of the fact or not), rather, it represents
the soul’s search for transcendence and meaning in a material world, tension
predominates when this search is not realized, and charity is what relieves
the tension and expresses this search in tangible form.
The soul perspective on
wealth reflects and is an extension of a radical new perspective on man as
well. Indeed, the soul perspective is holistic in the sense that it adjusts
our vision to an all encompassing soul-look at life in general.
From a Torah perspective mans’ value and mans’ consciousness
is driven by the Divine. Man was created in the “Divine
Image.” This is mans inherent personality and value,
his “true reality” (in contrast to Marx’s
view  ).
The Divine spirit manifests itself in material drives of
different sorts, but at the engine of all these drives is
the soul being drawn to its particular “sparks,” in its
search for energy and fuel.
Man’s individuality and
by extension his private property is a reflection of his unique spiritual
nature. The Torah therefore supports private ownership.
Human labor and work – which generates our wealth – is an integral component
in human nature. “Man was born to toil.” “One measure” resulting
from his own work is more precious to man than “ten measures
he receives from others.” Unearned gifts are labeled “bread
of shame.” The reason for this is because through work and
effort man has the capacity to become G-dly – to be a giver,
a contributor to life, an equal partner in the creation
and development of the universe. 
Through our physical labor
and profession we fulfill our calling to refine, civilize and transform our
corner of the world into a Divine home. The message of the Torah to each individual
is : “You are indispensable to a larger cosmic plan. Your contributions, your
work, your value is not based on economic supply and demand, your value is
not determined by others, it is not arbitrary; your value is an inherent Divine
absolute. No man can take it away, because no man gives it to you.”
Yet, work divorced of
its spiritual center causes alienation and fragmentation. Like wealth, when
work becomes an end in itself rather than the means to a higher goal, it enslaves
and consumes us.
According to the Torah,
this “split” between “who you are” and “what you do,” between your work and
your spiritual calling, between your means and your personal mission statement
is an aberration that resulted from Mans’ eating from the “Tree of Knowledge.”
This created an altered state of consciousness where good and evil are intertwined.
Profit also brings exploitation. Benefit for one creates alienation for another.
Wealth can be both good and bad at once.
In order to repair this
distortion we need to recognize that the problem lies not with work and the
wealth it generates; not with the individual drive for success and profit;
not with private ownership – but rather with realigning and focusing
our work, wealth and individuality toward the higher calling (as enumerated
at length above).
In his critique of the Capitalist system Marx concerns himself greatly with
the devaluation (Entwertung) of man in capitalistic
society. In his ‘Paris Manuscripts’ (1844) Marx’s
scathing attack on capitalism powerfully captures the essence
of worker mentality, how the Capitalist system reduces the
worker to no more than a commodity, thus leading to mans’
alienation (Entausserung) and estrangement (Entfremdung)
from his essential self.
Marx also cynically describes the distortion of value that
money creates: “the universal confusion and exchange of all
things, an inverted world, the confusion and exchange of all natural and human
This description is remarkably
accurate – accurate that is under the present prevailing circumstances.
Marx brilliantly depicts the post-Tree of Knowledge mentality, when man became
alienated from his purpose, hence from his work. The exploitation of man resulting
from private ownership, and the four key forms of alienation described in
these ‘Manuscripts’ – alienation between laborer and 1) the product of labor,
2) the act of production, 3) other laborers, 4) himself – all results from
the distortion created by the split between matter and spirit, between “who
you are” and “what you do,” the schism and estrangement of work and wealth
from its source.
Conversely, the integration between producer and product,
between producers, between all the forces of labor and production, can truly
be achieved only through unity on the root level: where man, his work, production,
livelihood and generated wealth are all driven toward his higher, spiritual
goal. Wealth becomes reunited with its soul (spiritual sparks), that directs
Interestingly, Marx equates the workers’ alienation with
religion. “The more man puts into God, the less he retains within himself.”
He sees religion and G-d as outside forces, alien to mans’ individual
sense of self. This too, is our distorted perception that matter and spirit
Marx makes the same mistake and falls into the exact trap that he accuses
the ‘political economist’ of: he assumes as
facts that which is supposed to be deduced. By looking at
man and at wealth from its spiritual root, we can apply
a new way of valuing man. Without any pre-assumptions, according
to Marx the question can be asked: why should we value each
man? What is wrong with exploitation? Who cares if there
is alienation? The only answer is to value man for what
he truly is – not a commodity, but as a Divine indispensable
contribution with a unique calling. All Marx’s critique
that private property must be inherently exploitive and
must alienate men, is only true if the man and his work
is not driven with divine purpose.
With this understanding of the innate Divine nature of both man and wealth,
with its appreciation of the sanctity of human individuality,
the Torah’s economic model can be defined as a capitalist
mechanism with a socialist soul.
With the failure of Marxist and socialist economic theory, the free market
economy is the current system of choice. However, the Torah’s
model offers another perspective: it is driven by individual
markets, yet with an underlying personal and collective
sensitivity to the real meaning and power of wealth, and
appreciation of the underlying thread that unites all people
of all classes. Charity is not just a virtue of the wealthy
(benefiting the worker not directly but as a chance spillover
from increased prosperous conditions around him), it is
the driving force of wealth in recognition of the true meaning
of wealth. Regulated not “by the blind forces of the
market and competition,” and definitely not by a “consciously
implemented plan of economic administration”
 (which failed miserably, as witnessed in
the abuse of centralized power and state controlled economy
in the Communist experiment of the 20th century),
but by the spiritual unifying goal within.
The failure of Marxist
theory is the fact that no individual can be trusted with power to centralize
and control the common good. The best and only guarantee for the common good
is when it originates from the grass roots – a decentralized economy, driven
by the powerful diversified forces of individuals empowered with unprecedented
information and knowledge. This is the true reality check – a unity that is
created from the diversity.
All this is predicated
on the belief that the human can and will recognize his inherent nature as
a divine creature, dedicated to using all his means for the greater good.
Production is still motivated
by personal drive and gain, however, it not for selfish purposes, but to connect
to a higher goal: G-d. Distribution is not just for income, but to actualize
the spiritual potential of wealth.
As opposed to Marxian theory that views man as a product of his environment,  the
Torah’s faith in a human being is absolute. The Torah exhorts:
“You, man were created in the Divine Image. Your inherent
nature is divine. Selfishness and greed is superimposed
by a material world created by G-d – a world that allows
for all the economic classes to divide us – in order to
allow us the opportunity to be wise and pierce the false
veneer, and recognize the true Divine nature of wealth and
power, and in effect use it for its intended purpose.”
When human consciousness is raised and we feel that our
security and value does not come from a mercurial physical world but from
within, from our Divine soul, we can then exchange the ‘teddy bears’ of our
material security blankets with a true and eternal self-esteem.
Inevitably this will
change our attitude to and use of wealth.
Perhaps one can say that
the Torah’s futuristic economy will be an elegant synthesis of a free economy
choosing to behave in some way like a socialist one, with the key distinction
being, that the collective sharing will come from within, self initiated rather
than imposed. Recognizing the true nature of wealth will drive men to create
systems that will honor and express the inner purpose of our wealth: creating
a home for G-d. To see the acquisition of wealth as a means for spiritual
growth, for understanding ourselves and G-d, for filling the world with Divine
knowledge as the waters cover the sea.
THE FIRST ECONOMIC MODEL
All the elements and challenges
of wealth - its value, its abuse and its redemption - are illustrated in various
incidences throughout the Bible, especially in the birth of the Jewish people
upon leaving Egypt. These insights combine to provide the Torah’s economic
The Value of Wealth
The importance and significance of material wealth, and
individual ownership is first emphasized when G-d promises
Abraham that after their bondage and oppression the Jewish
people will be freed and leave with “great wealth.”
 And thus it came
to be.  Indeed, G-d insisted
that they acquire this wealth, even though the people were
ready to leave empty handed: “Allow us to leave and
forget the wealth” they cried.
 Why was it necessary
for the Jews to leave with the wealth of Egypt? Because
the wealth contained the abundance of spiritual sparks that
they elevated through their years of exile in Egypt. This
“great wealth” was the redeeming factor in all
their hard years of enslavement.
The Abuse of Wealth
After the Jewish people leave Egypt, their abuse of the
wealth they accumulated is illustrated in two major incidents.
The people use their wealth to construct the ‘golden
And as discussed earlier, Korach together with his cohorts,
Dathan and Aviram abused their wealth. 
The Redemption of Wealth
Finally, the Torah describes
the redemption of wealth and the realization of its true purpose: the elevation
of spiritual sparks through charity:
The very first model of philanthropy was the construction
of the Temple, the Mishkan in the wilderness. Following
their exodus from Egypt, and the great wealth the Jewish
 G-d commands Moses: You shall gather contributions
for Me from all the people – men, women and children.
With it you shall “build for Me a sanctuary, and I
will rest among them.”  Who is ‘them’?
I will rest among the people, in each one of them.
 Were Moses to raise the necessary funds
only from the wealthiest, than the Temple would have been
exclusively for the elite. However, the House of G-d is
a home for each and every person, thus it must be
built with every individual’s contribution.
According to some opinions, the fact that the Jewish people used their wealth
to build the Mishkan was a tikkun (repair) for the
wealth with which they built the golden calf.
 We can say, that
the golden calf was an example of ‘capitalism’
gone awry, where individual wealth was abused and used for
self-glorification and self-worship – creating a false
god out of gold. In contrast, the Mishkan is the quintessential
model for a healthy economy, where individual wealth is
not denied nor is it transferred to centralized administration;
rather it is used for building a Divine home.
The Mishkan is a microcosm of the universe.
 The purpose of our material existence is
to transform it into a home for G-d, using our material
wealth and possessions. Every person, man, woman and child
has this obligation and opportunity; for this purpose each
has been designated his or her divine ‘sparks,’
as discussed earlier.
Let us now return to Korach’s
rebellion. Korach’s rebellion was a misguided attempt at correcting this flaw
by eliminating class struggle, and creating a so-called equality. However
this was flawed by the fact that it did not consider the inherent human diversity,
and ultimately not transforming wealth, only in avoiding the problem.
The response to Korach: 1) Not appreciating and recognizing
the inherent diversity in man. The challenge is not to superimpose artificial
equality and artificially eliminate this inherent diversity, but to align
and channel it. 2) This can only be done by creating a connection of spirit
and matter, that the material life recognizes and aspires to its spiritual
Torah does not advocate the socialist ideal of relinquishing individual wealth
for the common good. Torah sanctions private ownership (besides
for the Levites  ),
combined with the obligation of charity. It is actually
considered reckless to give more than a fifth (except in
a life threatening situation). Individual wealth is thus
cherished, yet the goal is that the individual appreciate
the true spiritual meaning of his wealth.
The Torah economic model,
therefore, is a form of capitalism with a soul. Individuality together with
G-d is the response to all Marx’s critique.
In the following section, I will use this Torah economic
model/blueprint to develop a contemporary model for wealth
today. As the prophet says. “just as in the days of
Mitzrayim, I will show you wonders.” Exodus offers
us a model for our economic future.