Bereshit

By Rabbi Daniel Levy, October 23, 2008
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"Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel"
Genesis 4:1

How much is really enough? Cain was the master of agriculture - real estate and property. Abel, having declined to work the land, for it had been cursed, was an expert shepherd - commodities and tradable assets.

The entire planet earth lay before them. Each was ready to build financial dynasties for the rest of mankind. All descendants would either be from the real estates and property family (Cain) or the commodities and tradable assets family (Abel).

But for Cain his dynasty wasn't enough. Unlike his brother Abel, he couldn't part from his choicest products, even to offer them to God, the source of his goodness: as such, God did not accept his offering. I wonder, how much would have been enough for Cain?

The tycoon John Paul Getty was once asked "How much is enough?" He replied, "Just a bit more." Each of us faces the same trap: we all want just a little bit more and think that when we get it, we will stop. But when this does not happen, we set ourselves a new goal and so it continues in an unending cycle.

I hope that some good will come from the credit crunch. Perhaps we will use this unravelling economic saga, of almost unprecedented proportions, to take stock of where we put our finances in our lives.

We should ask ourselves the following two questions: do I live to work or work to live? And if I work to live, what am I living for?

Our answer should include to bring up a family, repair the damage in the world (tikkun olam), help the repressed and unfortunate and to contribute to the local community. In addition to this, to spend time studying Torah and performing its mitzvot and, above all, to ensure our money is tithed with a suitable donation to tzedakah on a regular basis: the latter is the offering the Almighty wants us to give.

This year's sidrah panellists are:

 Rabbi Daniel Levy, United Hebrew Congregation, Leeds
 Rabbi Chaim Weiner, director, European Masorti Bet Din
 Rabbanit Chana Henkin, dean, Nishmat, the Jerusalem Centre for Advanced Torah Study for Women
 Rabbi Yoni Sherizen, chief executive, National Chaplaincy Board
 Rabbi Nancy Morris, Glasgow Reform Synagogue

    Last updated: 12:06pm, October 23 2008