Materialism

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Value 1: Positive Value of Money

  1. The righteous people value their wealth more than their bodies because they don't acquire anything that's stolen.[1]
  2. Having wealth is a precondition for becoming a prophet[2] or a Judge.[3]

Value 2: Not an end in itself

  1. Rabbi Aharon Feldman (The Juggler and The King, pp. 14-17) details how the parable of Rabba Bar Bar Chana in Bava Batra 73a bemoans the futility and corruptness of the menTallity of hedonism, specifically with regards to physcial pleasure. Specifically, the desire is for physical pleasures and emotional pleasures such as power, honor, and vengeance. The "juggler" in the parable attempts to satisfy and entertain himself by mastering these two areas. Until the day of his death or boredom he juggles between sensory excitement and appeasement of the ego. The parable ends with the juggler being caught by God and granted his due punishment.[4]
  2. Rav Dessler (Strive for Truth, first chapter of v. 2) also writes how some people become trapped in the illusion of materialism or the rat race of society. It has the horrific potential of causing a person to sink to the level that he becomes a mascot for the yetzer hara.
  3. Without the correct attitude, materialism is addictive and person will never truly satisfy his desire for more money and pleasure. [5]

In order to serve him better

  1. The reason that Hashem gives us the blessings of this world on account of our Mitzvot in order to enable us to fulfill mitzvot better and have a clear mind to learn Torah.[6]
  2. Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi on his deathbed raised his ten fingers and declared that he made sure that he always used his fingers to learn Torah and never benefited from this world with even one finger.[7]
  3. Using physicality to serve him better makes the physicality into spirituality.[8] In a very elevated form, even the physical food and furniture that a righteous person uses becomes spiritually elevated.[9]

To keep oneself healthy

  1. There's a mitzvah to keep one's body healthy.[10] See the Health & Hygiene page.
  2. Excess piety to the extent that it means denying oneself the basics and becomes unhealthy is sinful.[11]

Value 3: Enjoying from Hashem's world

  1. Nature and the pleasures of this world should inspire us to to recognize Hashem's greatness and thank Him. [12]
  2. Hashem is going to ask us on our Day of Judgement why we didn't enjoy from his world.[13]

Value 4: Self-Sufficiency for the Essentials

  1. It is impossible to learn without sustenance. [14]
  2. A person who is both involved in Torah study and work will avoid sin.[15] See Parnasa page about the value of parnasa.
  3. There is a value in be able to be self-sufficient.[16]

How to Balance spirituality and physicality?

  1. One approach is to only involve yourself in physicality according to your needs and no more. [17]
  2. Another approach is to follow the middle of the road. For example, one should wear what is considered normal, not too fancy or too raggedy. Alternatively, one should eat food that is considered normal and not too expensive or too disgusting. [18]
  3. Each person is created with a unique disposition, personality, and level of toleration of certain physical difficulties. In this manner, the Torah wouldn't command each person to only learn day and night because such is not the capabilities or personality of each person. Rather, the Torah gave us certain obligatory statues and beyond those there is room for individuality according to a person's abilities and strengths.[19]

Being happy with what you have

  1. A crucial key to being a happy person is to be happy with what you have.[20]

Sources

  1. Chullin 91a
  2. Nedarim 38a. However, the Rambam takes this gemara out of context to say that a navi needs to have a broad mind but not technically wealthy.
  3. Ketubot 105b
  4. The midrash (Kohelet Rabba 6:1:6) speaks about how the soul can not find satisfaction with all of the pleasures in the world and craves spiritual fulfillment.
  5. Kohelet 5:9, Kohelet Rabba 1:34, Sanhedrin 107a
  6. Rambam Teshuva 9:1
  7. Ketubot 104a. Nonetheless, one should note that Rebbe was so blessed with wealth that Chazal (Brachot 57a) state he always had good vegetables on his table all year round.
  8. בכל דרכיך דעהו (Mishlei 3:6), Rambam (Deot 3:3), Shulchan Aruch 231:1
  9. Ketubot 105b regarding food given to Elisha, Gemara Chullin 91b regarding the rocks used for Yacov's head, Mesilat Yesharim (ch. 26). However, it is important to note that which the Maharal (Nesach Yisrael ch. 15) posits; usually this world and the next are oppositional and it is rare to reach the level on which one can enjoy from both this world and the next.
  10. Brachot 32b, Rambam (Deot 4:1), Taanit 22b.
  11. Ibn Ezra Kohelet 7:16, Yerushalmi Peah 8:8 towards the end, Orchot Tzadikim (Shaar HaGavah s.v. HaDerech HaYashara), Tanit 11a
  12. Mishlei 16:4 "כל פעל יקוק למענהו" - Everything was created for His honor. Maharsha Brachot 35b, Yishayhu 40:26 ״שאו מרום עיניכם וראו מי־ברא אלה״, Tehillim 104:24 "מה־רבו מעשיך יקוק", Smak (mitzvah no. 3)
  13. Yerushalmi (Kiddushin 4:12), Rav hirsch on avot 3 about looking at a tree during learning
  14. Avot 3:17
  15. Pirkei Avot 2:2
  16. Brachot 8a, Mishlei 15:27 "ושונא מתנת יחיה", Rambam (Zechiya UMatana 12:17),
  17. Mesillat Yesharim (ch. 13 "Biur Midat Perishut")
  18. Rambam (Deot 4:1-2), Orchot Tzadikim (Shaar HaGavah s.v. HaDerech HaYashara). See Chovot Halevavot.
  19. Or Same'ach (Talmud Torah 1:2 s.v. Venimsa)
  20. Avot 4:1, Rav Dessler (Strive For Truth v. 1, essay on Happiness)