As we were finishing our breakfast after Yom Kippur, my teenage son was on his phone making last-minute plans to sell the four species. When he was told to put down his phone because we were at the table, he decided to start trash-talking his older sister about how much money he will make over the next four days. She is doing National Service and working for the Government Press Office – and as I like to say, she is saving Israel!
While she is really contributing to the nation, her national service salary comes out to a paltry NIS 4.5 per hour. Never missing a chance to make fun of his sister, my son went on and on about how he can make more money in 10 minutes selling a few sets than she made working 144 hours in September. No question about that. For those who have yet to purchase your set, here is a little secret: There is a huge difference between wholesale and retail prices for the four species. The mark-up that you will pay is totally outrageous, so negotiate and get yourself a better price!
I then tried to remind him that while he thinks he is rolling in money now, and that he is doing great for a teenager, he should focus on his studies, because he can’t feed a family selling hundreds of lulavim for a week. That didn’t seem to make much of an impression on him, and he continued the trash-talking. Our idealistic daughter kept responding that she is helping the country, which is more important.
It goes without saying that I am not against making money. In fact, helping people increase their net-worth through investing is my profession. But as I have written numerous times, money is there to serve a purpose. While the bumper sticker “Whoever dies with the most amount of money wins” is cute, it goes against the whole concept of money as a conduit to build a better family life and a better society.
As we approach the holiday of Sukkot, we may overlook how the festival has a financial dimension. Explaining a reason of sitting in the sukkah, Rabbi Benjamin Blech writes, “Sukkot was the time when, in the agricultural society of old, farmers found themselves the wealthiest they would be all year. It was the time of the harvest. The granaries were full. They were blessed with far more than their immediate needs. It was their moment of affluence.
“So the Torah commanded them to leave their homes and to sit in simple frail huts through whose coverings they could look up at the heavens and remind themselves of the source of their blessings. They needed to recall, in a festival appropriately named ‘the season of our joy,’ that true happiness comes not from our possessions but from our priorities, not from what we own but from who we are, not from our mansions that offer physical comforts but from our families with whom we create everlasting bonds of love and affection.”
Now, don’t think that this means I am taking my daughter’s side in the argument. In their own ways, they both made valid arguments and they are both right. It’s exactly for this reason that I constantly preach defining financial goals and needs. By investing intelligently to be able to have more money, and then using your money for real purpose, true happiness can be achieved and a better society can be created.
Aaron Katsman is an author and a licensed financial professional. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.aaronkatsman.com.