Sivan 9
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Sivan 9

One who eats fat meat may need to hide in the attic, but one who eats vegetables may do so in an open field (Pesachim 114a).

Many people live beyond their means and sink into deep debt. Whether they must then "hide in the attic" to escape their creditors or whether they mortgage themselves so heavily that the debt burden crushes them is immaterial. The message in the quoted passage from the Talmud is clear: Live within your means, and you can be free. Live beyond your means, and you become a fugitive.

Rational people would not assume a crushing burden. The awareness that an extravagant expenditure will result in progressively consuming interest payments can more than negate any transitory pleasure. People do not take on these debts for the ephemeral pleasurable experience, but because of an ego unrestrained by rational thought; these people feel that they must have what others have. "Keeping up with the Joneses" may override all rational considerations.

Why do people "keep up with the Joneses"? They desperately need to give themselves an artificial sense of self-worth, and this dependence on external appearances indicates a feeling of personal bankruptcy.

They pay a steep price for this type of ego-gratification. A good sense of self-esteem would eliminate this need and preserve their health as well as their fortune.

Today I shall...

try to avoid living beyond my means, realizing that this is often merely an ego-satisfying drive which can be avoided by achieving a healthy sense of self-worth.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

Published: May 21, 2009

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