Ahead of Rosh Hashanah, consider charity, giving - opinion

The media is full of stories about how people have no food for the holidays. Keep in mind that our High Holy Day prayers are in the plural. The time of year is not about ‘I.’ It’s about ‘us.’

APPLES AND honey: The classic Rosh Hashanah combination. (photo credit: SUFECO/FLICKR)
APPLES AND honey: The classic Rosh Hashanah combination.
(photo credit: SUFECO/FLICKR)

Thank you, dear God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough. Thank you for the rain. And for the chance to wake up in three hours and go fishing: I thank you for that now, because I won’t feel so thankful then. – Garrison Keillor 

"Thank you, dear God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough. Thank you for the rain. And for the chance to wake up in three hours and go fishing: I thank you for that now, because I won’t feel so thankful then."

Garrison Keillor

Unless you’ve actually been there, readers wouldn’t understand how true the Keillor quote is. I was reminiscing a few days ago, while walking with one of my kids, how we used to go salmon fishing almost every Sunday from late spring until early winter. I clearly remember how I would go to sleep at 1-2 a.m. on Saturday night, only to have my father come in and wake me up 2 hours later, so that we could first pray and then try and be on the water before sunrise – the best time to catch salmon. While we rarely actually made it out before sunrise, and weren’t the most successful fisherman, nearly 40 years later Daddy I can’t tell you how thankful I am of those days, even though I might not have been so thankful then when you came in to wake me up!

This week we read the Torah portion of Ki Tavo. The beginning of the portion begins with the commandment to bring the first fruits. Imagine the farmer who has toiled and toiled and finally sees the reward of the hard work, only instead of enjoying it by eating, he must bring it to Jerusalem, and make a declaration thanking the Lord for both the land and all the good that has been received.

As I have quoted many times, Rabbi Berel Wein writes, “Saying thank you is one of the basic courtesies of human interaction. Though elementary and straightforward, it is often forgotten or neglected. In saying thank you, we are acknowledging that we are dependent upon the goodness and consideration of others and that we are not completely in control over events and even of our own decisions in life.”

“Saying thank you is one of the basic courtesies of human interaction. Though elementary and straightforward, it is often forgotten or neglected. In saying thank you, we are acknowledging that we are dependent upon the goodness and consideration of others and that we are not completely in control over events and even of our own decisions in life.”

Rabbi Berel Wein

Too often we perceive our great achievements as a testament to our greatness and fall prey to “And you may say in your heart, ‘My strength and the might of my hand made this victory.’”

 Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur act as an anchor for the Jewish people. (credit: David Holifield/Unsplash) Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur act as an anchor for the Jewish people. (credit: David Holifield/Unsplash)

RABBI WEIN continues, “There is no question that the farmer invested a great deal of effort, sweat and toil in bringing his crops to fruition. Because of this effort and the investment on the part of the farmer, there is a temptation that he will view these new fruits as an entitlement. For after all, he was the one who devoted the time and effort necessary to produce them. There is a danger that he will forget that there really are no entitlements in life and that one has to say thank you for everything that is achieved, though ostensibly we have labored to achieve this much desired goal. Rather, it is incumbent upon the farmer to thank his Creator for the land and the natural miracles that occurred daily in the production of food, grain and fruit.”

Repentance, prayer and charity before Rosh Hashanah

Repentance, prayer and charity, play a central role this time of year as the way for us to avert a bad decree and receive a favorable judgment from the almighty. Two weeks ago I met someone who consults for a charity giving platform. He told me that he is working with a man who sold his company, and his proceeds were in the 9-digit area. He told me that this man had never thought about giving even small amounts of charity and now that he is uber-rich had still never really though about. He went on to tell me that he has been making the rounds meeting very high net-worth individuals and many of them also had not given much thought to giving.

Every year without fail before Rosh Hashanah and Passover, the media is full of stories about how more and more people have no food for the holidays juxtaposed with how much a trip abroad at a 5-star hotel for the holiday costs. Either the media is paying lip service to the sad plight of others or they are tone deaf, take your pick. I am certainly not against taking vacations of any type if it fits your budget. But maybe the emphasis especially at this time of year, should be made on bettering society. You may be a great entrepreneur or computer programmer, but internalize the lesson of bringing the first fruits. It’s not all you. Give thanks for being so fortunate that you hit the financial jackpot. For these multi-millionaires, they can actually fund or create projects that are near and dear to their hearts. They can take giving charity to the next level. This will, of course, bring tremendous meaning for the rest of their lives. Keep in mind that our High Holy Day prayers are in the plural. The time of year is not about ‘I.’ It’s about ‘us.’

If you have come into a financial windfall, take some time and figure out how you can help build a better society. And don’t forget to say thank you.

The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates.

Aaron Katsman is the author of Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing. www.gpsinvestor.com; [email protected]