Your Investments: First fruits and shofar

It’s time to get our priorities in order

Money for terror.  (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Money for terror.
Authenticity is everything! You have to wake up every day and look in the mirror, and you want to be proud of the person who’s looking back at you. You can only do that if you’re being honest with yourself and being a person of high character. You have an opportunity every single day to write that story of your life.
Last week we read the Torah portion of Ki Tavo. It’s always read before Rosh Hashanah, as it contains blessings given to those who follow the law and curses to those who don’t. It’s then rather obvious why it’s read in close proximately to the Jewish New Year.
I actually think there is another reason why it’s read now. 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. Basically it’s a reminder that it’s not because you were the greatest farmer that you have the bounty but because the Lord gave it to you. It’s another way for us to acknowledge the Lord.
This acknowledgment of God is what we do on Rosh Hashanah. We anoint God as our King and recognize who is in charge.
Similarly, we have started blowing the shofar daily, with the culmination coming on Rosh Hashanah when we blow 100 sounds, and at the climax of the Yom Kippur service when we also blow, interesting enough, just after we accept upon ourselves the yoke of heaven.
Many reasons are given for why the shofar in blown.
According to the Rambam (Hilchot Teshuva 3:4) the reason is: “Even though the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a decree of the Torah, there is a hint in it, as if to say: Awake, sleepers, from your sleep, and slumberers from your slumber; search your actions and repent; and remember your Creator.... Because of this, the entire house of Israel maintains the custom of increasing their charity, good deeds and involvement in mitzvot from Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur, above the level of the rest of the year.”
TO PUT it simply, it’s a wake-up call. It’s the time to take stock of our lives and prioritize what’s important and how we can improve ourselves. Financially, it’s time to focus on what is important. When it comes to spending, every spending decision that is made can have a crucial effect on savings. Prioritize expenses and buy only what is necessary. Get in the habit of asking if each purchase is necessary.
A central aspect to both the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayers is that we say that teshuva, tefila and tzedaka – repentance, prayer and charity – are the keys to ripping up the evil decree. If you are more careful about how you spend your money, you will have more to give away. Do you really need another pair of shoes or pants? If the answer is no, there are plenty of families out there who really could use these items because they can’t afford to buy them.
As I have written here before, I once counseled a family that set a goal of giving an additional 200 shekels each month to tzedaka. At first they thought it would be an impossible task, but after examining their spending and then prioritizing purchases by importance, they were able to easily find the NIS 200. For many, it’s not such a hard exercise, you just need to do it.
Use the New Year to start fresh financially. Start a budget, where you have two line items that get funded first.
First is your tzedaka and next is long-term savings. Try and put 10% of your take-home income in each. Let’s remind ourselves of what’s truly important and use this time of year to help both ourselves and those who have fallen on hard times.
Shana Tova, and may we all merit a year filled with health, happiness and prosperity.
This article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates.
The writer is author of Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing (McGraw-Hill), and a licensed financial professional in the US and Israel. For more information: 02-624- 0995, or email aaron@lighthousecapital.