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Thought for the Day: Using Your Money to Buy Eternity

We read in sh'ma, "You shall love the Lord, Your G-d with all of your heart(s), with your entire life, with all of your resources."  Chazal tell us that "your entire life" means even if it requires giving up your life; "all of your resources" means (one of the meanings), "all of your money."  You might wonder, as did Chazal: If I have to give up my life, why would the Torah also say that I have to give up my money?  Chazal answer: some people care more about their money, some more about their life, so the Torah said both to tell everyone that no matter what is most precious to you, love for your Creator comes first.  You may be wondering, as I have for years... what!?

This Chazal makes to value judgment as to whether it is appropriate to love your money more than your life.  Let's make that statement even stronger with a couple more Chazal's.  How about: Tzadikim care more about their money/property than about their bodies.  Here's another one: The fact that baby Moshe was put into a (cheap) reed basket teaches us to be careful with our money.  Finally, just for good measure: stealing even a penny from someone is taking part of their very soul.

I heard this question addressed in a shiur as a siyum to having learned the Bava's (Kamma, Metzia, Basra) and another shiur as an introduction to beginning.  Besides the above mentioned Chazal's, the choice of the name of this order seems peculiar, נזיקין/damages.  The other orders are named about their main topics: Seeds deals with agriculture; Women deals with issues related to women, Festivals to the holidays, Holy Things deals with the Temple offerings, Purity deals with the laws of spiritual purity and contamination.  But only a very small part of נזיקין deals with damages.  Most of the seder is about contracts, inheritance, the court system, etc.

In fact, though, the whole tenor of נזיקין is different than the other orders.  The other orders are largely about what is permitted and what is forbidden.  That is, about how the world/reality works.  נזיקין, though, is mostly about how to get things done.  You want to write a contract?  Here's how.  You want to hire a worker?  Here's how.  You want to resolve a conflict?  Here's how.  To me it feels like the difference between physics and engineering.  Physics is about how things work.  Engineering is about using the laws of physics to do what you want.

Now let's go back.  What is your life?  From the Torah perspective, it is an opportunity to do Torah and mitzvos.  What is your money?  It is a resource to help you do Torah and mitzvos.  That's why Chazal didn't put a value judgement on people whose money is more important than their lives.  It's like asking, "What is more important: your brain or your heart?"  Both are critical to life; if pushed, some would answer one way, others the opposite; no value judgment, just reality.  If you steal someone's money, therefore you are reducing their ability to perform the Torah and mitzvos for which they were created.  You are literally stealing from their eternal soul.

The order is called נזיקין to impress on us that our actions have real meaning and effect.  Keeping Shabbos affects my soul.  My monetary relationships affects the eternity everyone with whom I have an interaction.  As said in many places, we know that HaShem has built the world on the principle that His influence for good is more than 500 times His influence for the opposite.  Chazal gave us order נזיקין to impress upon us how much damage we can do... and therefore the incredible amount of good we can do by simply being honest and forthright in our fiduciary responsibilities.


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