Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Mammon

    Rabbi Julian Sinclairs dip into the dictionary



    Mammon has entered the English language as a synonym for filthy, corrupting riches, spawning such fearful conditions as mammonism (devotion to the pursuit of riches).

    This is mainly through the agency of the Christian Bible, where mammon gets a bad press (eg You cannot serve both God and mammon, Matthew 6:24). Mammon simply means money or wealth in the Hebrew of the time but most English versions of the Gospels leave the Hebrew word untranslated, which lends to the love of money a Jewish sound.

    In Mishnaic Hebrew, mammon doesnt have this negative sense. In origin it is a contraction of mihamon, where mi means from and hamon is mass or accumulation. Dinei mammonot are cases in monetary law, as opposed to dinei nefashot, capital cases. The Talmud (Bava Kamma 83b) wants us to know that the biblical phrase an eye for an eye (Exodus 21:24) refers to mammon, monetary compensation rather than the actual putting out of an eye.

    This neutral sense of mammon in the Jewish sources reflects a theological difference from Christianity. Mammon is not intrinsically good or bad, its a matter of how you use it.

    In Jewish law, holiness is achieved not by shunning the world of money but by sanctifying it through honest business dealings and generosity with what one has. If one wants to attain saintliness, the Talmud surprisingly tells us, study the laws of financialdamages.

    If you have a word for Rabbi Sinclair, email julianbsinclair@yahoo.com

Jewish words

Darchei Shalom

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Darchei Shalom
Jewish words

Chizuk

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Chizuk
Jewish words

Harat Olam

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Harat Olam
Jewish words

Ga'agua

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Ga'agua
Jewish words

Nafka Mina

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Nafka Mina
Jewish words

Machzor

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Machzor
Jewish words

Geshmack

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Geshmack
Jewish words

Neilah

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Neilah
Jewish words

Taharah

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Taharah