Giving thanks and slaughtered pigs - opinion

This week’s Torah portion, Vayetzei, is all about babies. Lots and lots of babies.

Calculating taxes (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Calculating taxes
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

“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

The membership in the synagogue I pray in is made up of many grandparents and great-grandparents. We don’t have too many young couples, and the few that we have tend to leave our neighborhood after a year or two of marriage. It’s not often that we have the fortune to celebrate a baby-naming. This week we had that fortune, and it was for a fourth-generation baby girl, the great granddaughter of one of the synagogues early members.

This week’s Torah portion, Vayetzei, is all about babies. Lots and lots of babies. And lots of baby-namings. The children of Jacob are born and each given a name that has significant meaning. One name, Yehuda, is given special mention by our sages. After giving birth to her fourth child, Leah said, (Genesis 29:35) “This time, let me thank God. Therefore she called him Yehuda.”

According to the Talmud, Leah was the first person to express openly her feelings of thankfulness to God. It says in Brachot 7b: “Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai: From the day that the Holy One, Blessed is He, created His world, there was no person who offered thanks to Him until Leah came and thanked Him as it is stated, ‘This time let me thank God.’”

The reason that after her fourth son she expressed thanks is because, according to Rashi, “Now that I have received more than my portion, it’s time to express my gratitude to God.” The question then is what is so praiseworthy about this? 

 SCRIBES FINISH writing a Torah scroll. (credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90) SCRIBES FINISH writing a Torah scroll. (credit: DAVID COHEN/FLASH 90)

I saw an answer given in the name of Rav Dovid Kviat. He says, “The praiseworthy aspect of Leah’s behavior here was that she viewed what she received as more than her fair share. It is the nature of human beings to view that which they receive in life as something that they had coming to them. This is what I deserve. If my friend is earning $30,000 a year and I am earning half a million dollars a year, it may not be so easy to recognize my great fortune. It is easy to think I’m smarter than him, I’m more clever than him, I earned this on my own – it was coming to me! The novelty of Leah’s comment is that we see that a person has the ability to step back, look at a situation objectively and come to the conclusion that I am getting more than I deserve. This is not our normal tendency. The normal tendency is to view life as either I am getting less than I deserve or I am getting my fair share. The rare person, who lives their life with the attitude that I have gotten more than I deserve, is indeed a praiseworthy person.”

THERE IS an old investing adage, with a couple of variations but I’ll use this one: “Sometimes bulls make money, sometimes bears make money, but pigs get slaughtered.” 

I have a running joke with my brother that inevitably whenever he tries booking an airline ticket online he watches the price fall and fall. Then instead of being satisfied with the price, he waits, hoping it will continue to fall. It doesn’t and then the ticket price spikes higher. He then sends me a pig emoji and a recording of a pig snorting.

It’s important for investors to be satisfied with their profits and not try to be pigs. Earlier this week I had a client call and ask if she should sell a particular stock. I mentioned to her that she actually bought the shares, not to hold them long-term, rather she thought the price had dropped too much and thought it would jump higher when they announced their quarterly earnings. She was correct in her short-term analysis. My thought was that she should probably sell because her theory played out perfectly, and she should be happy with the money made. Had she set out to hold it for the long term, I would have discouraged the sale, but her goal was a short-term trade and she achieved his goal. Be thankful, and take your profits to the bank.

Conversely, I had a client who about a month ago gave me a trade to sell. I asked if he should just sell at the market price and he said no. He wanted to sell the shares one dollar higher than the market price. We are talking about a stock with a share price well above $1000. Well, needless to say that in trying to make another $150 he lost over $8,000. Oink, Oink!

Be thankful for your financial wins and don’t end up getting slaughtered out of greed.

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 author of Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing (McGraw-Hill), and is a licensed financial professional in the US and Israel. Securities are offered through Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. ( Member FINRA, SIPC, MSRB, FSI. For more information, call (02) 624-0995 visit or email [email protected]