By: Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui
The prophet Jeremiah admonishes, “let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might and let not the rich man glory in his wealth; but let him that glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows me for in these things I delight says the Lord.”
According to our sages, everything is determined up in heaven except for the choices a person makes between good and the opposite. Wisdom, might, wealth is all a gift from G-d. There is no place for a person to glorify himself in those things that are granted to him, so they can support and help him accomplish in those areas where he really does have input and influence. The only area in life a person can justifiably take personal credit and pride in, are those choices a person makes when he decides the righteous and good path over the alternative.
Ben Zoma declares however that certain types of wisdom, might and wealth may properly be prized and gloated over once they are integrated in the concept of “understanding and knowing me”. And he says.
“Who is wealthy, and may justly acknowledge his wealth? He who can bring himself to mentally and emotionally be happy with his lot. “Happy shall you be in this world, and it shall be well with you in the world to come.”
G-d created a nature within humans that we quickly become habituated and adapted with our circumstances in life. We become comfortable with our families, our health, our environment and our condition in life. There’s an old saying. If G-d showed us the whole picture of anyone else’s life, all its’ pluses and minuses, the overwhelming majority of people would choose precisely where they presently are.
This is good because by becoming accustomed to what we have, the irony is, this is what creates the desire to explore and desire more. To experience something fresh and novel.
On the other hand, once a person starts to intensely focus on more, many times this will cause people to lose their appreciation and gratitude for all the good and all the blessings they already have been blessed with.
Ben Zoma teaches us to live in the now. When people become seriously driven and focused on the future, many times this has a tendency to put people under tremendous stress and in a state of worry and anxiousness. Or, they may feel responsible for things that are not under their control. And to live in the past, many times this brings feelings of guilt and personal blame.
The proper balance is when we live and are focused mostly on the now, as the Rambam teaches, “a person should view every day as if it where his last day.” We are grateful and appreciate the present, while aspiring for more in the future.
In is interesting that we start every day and our morning prayers begins with an expression of thanks and gratitude and only a few minutes later we are asking for more! But it’s from this foundation of thanks, that it is healthy to ask and seek more.
A person who is constantly aspiring and dreaming for more and forgetting the present will never be satisfied. When he finally gets what he wants, he is still hoping for more, and always feels lacking. With this mentality, a rich person with $200 who seeks to double his wealth is poorer than a poor person with this same mentality. While a poor person with a mentality of gratitude is wealthier than a person with more money.
Not being caught up in this cycle maintains inner peace and calm. And on the contrary, a person at peace with himself is far more able to take advantage of opportunities which present themselves, and thus achieve true success in the world at large.
To read more articles from Rabbi Ezagui visit him at http://koshercaffeine.blogspot.com