Money is a gift from God. Like any gift, we shouldn't waste it, but rather appreciate it and treat it with care. This week's Torah portion includes a detailed tally of exactly how much money was contributed for the construction of the Holy Tabernacle and how it was spent. We know the Torah only mentions something if there is a lesson in it for us; and one lesson we can learn from this is that just as the Torah treats money matters carefully, so should we.
In our story, some kids discover the value of treating money properly.
"Where you headed, Zack?" Dennis asked, pulling up to his friend's driveway on his beat-up old bike and popping a loud bubble from the wad of gum in his mouth.
"I'm going out. Allowance day for you, huh Denny?" Zack smiled, looking at the kid's candy-bulging pockets. He always knew when it was the day his buddy got his weekly allowance, because it immediately went straight into the cash register of the local candy store.
"You bet! But what's with you, man? How come you never get allowance?"
"Sure I do - and the same amount as you. Remember, we talked about it."
Dennis blew another bubble, sucked it back in, and answered, "Yeah, I remember. But seems to me you were just putting me on, cuz that was months ago and I never see you getting candy or any other junk."
"That's the thing, Denny. I try not to waste my allowance cash on that kind of junk. What's the point? It's just here today and gone tomorrow."
"I doubt any of this candy is even going to make it 'til tomorrow, man," Dennis chuckled. "But that's what money's for, having fun."
"Could be, Denny. But it could also be there's more than one way to have fun. Come on, wanna ride with me?" Zack said, jumping on his bike, which was old and in bad shape just like Dennis' bike was.
"Where you goin'?" Dennis asked.
"Come along and see."
Zack lead the way and the two kids rode into town and pulled over in front of the local bike shop.
"What do you need, a new chain or something?" Dennis asked.
"Something like that - come on in with me."
"It's all ready for you, Zack," smiled Mr. Landry, the owner of the bike store. He wheeled a gleaming new ten-speed bike towards Zack. Dennis's mouth dropped open and then dropped almost all the way to his shoes as he watched Zack pull a big wad of cash from his pocket, hand it to the man and jump on the brand new bike.
"What'd you do? Rob a bank, man?" Dennis asked, shaking his head.
"I'm no bank-robber! That was my allowance money."
"Oh, come on. That bike cost big bucks. You don't get that kind of money for a weekly allowance!"
"You're right. Like I said, I only get the same as you do. But it adds up when you save it up - instead of just chewing it up. My parents work hard for this money and I appreciate that they - and God - give it to me, so I wanted to use it for something worthwhile. Let's ride."
Dennis pulled his half-chewed bubble gum out of his mouth. Suddenly it didn't taste so sweet. As he pedaled hard on his old bike, to try to keep up with Zack's fast new one, Dennis had some ideas about his allowance - and the value of the gift of money - that he never had before.
Q. How did Dennis feel at first about the allowance money he got?
A. He felt like it was okay to spend it all on candy and other junk right away.
Q. How did Zack feel about it?
A. He appreciated it as a gift from his parents and God and wanted to use it for something worthwhile.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. When we have money in our hands it's tempting to just blow it on whatever comes our way. But money is a valuable gift from God we should appreciate and use carefully and wisely.
Q. Which kid do you think made a better choice about how to use his allowance? Why?
A. Dennis got some immediate pleasure out of impulsively stuffing himself with candy each week, but at the end of the day he had nothing to show for it - except maybe some cavities. Zack got much more pleasure out of planning, saving and at last getting a valuable new bike.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. If someone's really rich and has essentially unlimited money, is there any reason for him not to just wildly spend it however he feels?
A. While he can afford it financially, he can't really afford it spiritually. That is - God puts us in the world and gives us what He gives us as tools to develop ourselves into better, more spiritual people and prepare for the spiritual world of the afterlife. If a rich person learns to share his money generously, or even just to appreciate it and spend it wisely - he has grown as a person. If he just wildly spends it, he learns nothing and ends up missing the point of life.
Q. Do you think it is preferable to be rich or poor?
A. Although the answer may seem obvious - it isn't. As we said, life is about growth. Each situation we find ourselves in gives us different growth opportunities. A rich person has one set of tests and challenges; not to be greedy, not to look down on others, etc. A poor person has other challenges; to remain honest, not to feel jealous, etc. The person who grows from his life situation and passes his tests is the winner in life. Whether he or she is rich or poor is irrelevant.