“If I were a rich man…”
Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting my father’s Rebbe, the Admor of the Shomer Emunim chasidim, together with my father and my brother Kalman. The Admor congratulated Kalman on the birth that morning of a new son (9th child!) and then continued with a two hour discussion of the latest world financial situation, geopolitics, Israeli history, war, peace and the end of days. He made reference to the Talmud, Zohar, Ramban, his own esteemed father (the founder and author of the “Shomer Emunim”) as well as many other Jewish sages.
One of the Admor’s more chilling statements was about the upcoming global financial calamity (and we thought we just passed one). One of his sources (I think it was the Zohar) explains that throughout history, most of the Jewish population made due with whatever material wealth came their way and were satisfied.
The Zohar predicts however, that in the beginning of Messianic times the Jewish population as a whole will reach historic levels of wealth and quality of life. Jews will then become accustomed to this opulence and luxury. Once the Jewish people have made such lifestyles a requirement, God will pull the metaphorical rug from under our feet and leave us materially destitute and financially impoverished.
Rabbi Ovadio Sforno gives an interesting perspective and strategy for viewing material wealth, or the lack thereof.
Deuteronomy 26:17 states:
“You have distinguished Hashem today to be a God for you, and to walk in His ways, and to observe His decrees, His commandments, and His statutes, and to hearken to His voice.”
Sforno explains that at the end of the 40 year sojourn in the desert, the Jewish people reaffirmed their commitment to God and His Torah. Part of the reaffirmation and the ensuing “deal” actually included two different aspects of materialism:
- Submission to financial punishment for transgression of God’s laws.
- Assertion that following God’s laws is greater than any material benefit.
The above may be small consolation to those addicted to their comforts. However, it may serve as good perspective if the proverbial Fiddler looses his footing from his mansion roof.
May we always have everything we truly need. And may we see it and appreciate it.
To the author, Sholem Aleichem, whose story Tevye and His Daughters inspired the popular musical “Fiddler on the Roof”. He vividly captured the humility and material poverty of our ancestors, the conditions of which to us, in our period of opulence, seem like fiction.
Culled from Wikipedia
Fiddler on the Roof is a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, set in Tsarist Russia in 1905. It is based on Tevye and his Daughters (or Tevye the Milkman) and other tales by Sholem Aleichem which he wrote in Yiddish and published in 1894.
The musical’s title stems from a painting by Marc Chagall, one of many surreal paintings he created of Eastern European Jewish life, often including a fiddler. The Fiddler is a metaphor for survival, through tradition and joyfulness, in a life of uncertainty and imbalance.
The original Broadway production of the show, which opened in 1964, was the first run of a musical in history to surpass the 3,000 performance mark. Fiddler held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years until Grease surpassed its run. The production was extraordinarily profitable and highly acclaimed. It spawned four Broadway revivals, a successful 1971 film adaptation, and the show has enjoyed enduring international popularity. It is also a very popular choice for school and community productions.
The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. He must cope with both the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters—each one’s choice of husband moves farther away from the customs of her faith—and with the edict of the Tsar that evicts the Jews from their village.