It’s not against COVID-1984, or against corrupt government officials.
The real war to be fought here is against our own bad middot, and especially our tavot mamon.
Ukrainians are notoriously stingy. Like, notoriously. We have been charged by a taxi for wanting to turn the airconditioning on, we’ve been charged extra for towels, extra for toilet paper, extra for taking especially big gulps of air (ok, that last one is a lie.)
Point is, money is definitely what makes the world go round in the Ukraine.
The landlord we’re renting from here in Uman is actually OK, as Ukrainians go, and has shown me a few kindnesses in the two days I’ve been here. He gave me pegs (for free…) He gave me bin bags (for free…) – but he was careful to tell me that I could only throw the bin bag out when it was totally full. And he’s also careful to let me know when the toilet flush gets stuck, so I don’t waste a grivna of his money on that trickle of unnecessary water.
A grivna is worth approximately half a cent.
And Ukraine is totally awash in water – it’s literally everywhere.
I’m not like this at all, so living in close quarters with such a stingy person is proving quite eye-opening. Not least, it’s showing me how very stressful it is, to have people like that around, always looking over your shoulder and critiquing your spending, like an in-house accountant. And it’s also showing me how much unnecessary pain and suffering all this stinginess and tavot mamon (lust for money) is bringing to the world.
This morning, our landlord finally managed to rent out the unit next to us.
The group of 8 Israelis who rented it got a really good deal, because our landlord is scared no-one else is coming out to Uman this year.
(He’s wrong, but he doesn’t know that yet.)
Usually, beds like his, in this location, in a reasonable apartment like his, go for at least $500 a head. This morning, he let the group have it for $180 a head, but he made the same condition that he made with us, that no-one else could come round to flat unless they were renting a bed in it.
I understand that condition.
I know it’s coming partially from a stingy place, but I also understand that the temptation to sneak another person in to sleep on a spare bed without paying may prove too strong for many people.
Long story short, the group invited two more people to come eat with them just now who aren’t renting there – and the landlord showed up, and asked them to pay more money.
And then, instead of working it out like grown ups, the group of 8 decided to stand on principle and to leave.
It was 6.30 at night, and their chances of finding somewhere else to sleep or rent right now are pretty small.
And for what? A few extra dollars? Whatever they think they saved, it’s going to cost them way more in hassle and effort.
This morning in the kever, I opened Rebbe Nachman’s Tales to the story of the Master of Prayer, where the Master of Prayer was taking the people of the Land of Money to task, for devoting their whole life to money.
Retarded people!!! Don’t you understand money is a tool, it’s a means to an end, not an end in and of itself!!! Why waste so much effort, so much energy, trying to conserve a couple of bucks, or trying to squeeze a couple more bucks out of other people?!?
(Clearly, I’m paraphrasing what Rabbenu said here.)
I have seen so many people sour relationships and cause massive emotional damage to others, especially their children and spouses, by making their money, their bank account, their principal priority in life.
Personally, I am at a stage that I literally can’t stand all this stingy ayin hara over money any more.
I can’t stand the people who criticise others for spending a little bit more on their groceries; or for giving some charity to askers who can’t be proven to be 100000% ‘kosher’; or who make it a big ‘mitzvah’ to try to screw prices down so hard (or inflate them so high) it literally hurts.
I can’t stand those people.
Recently, I read a prayer from the Rav, Rabbi Berland, which set up a clear correlation between the trait of stinginess and the ayin hara. People who have the first invariably have big problems with the second.
And that’s the whole war that we’re fighting right now, to convince all those people living n the Land of Money to finally give up on their false beliefs and destructive ideology.
Money is for spending.
Money is for sharing.
Money is for building the world, not boosting your investment portfolio.
Rebbe Nachman teaches very clearly that before Moshiach comes, anyone who has a lot of money will be totally shamed and disgusted by the money itself.
All those millionaires and billionaires, who could have helped so many people, done so many kindnesses, but preferred to continue to suck everyone else dry, and to take bribes, and to promote the agenda of evil in the world, just so they can have a few more zeros in the bank.
And what about us?
How much are we also stuck in the Land of Money, putting our savings ahead of helping our kids, or inviting guests for Shabbat, or even buying ourselves a new frock for the chag?
Money as we know it is about to disappear.
That’s why the tests involving money are becoming so sharp.
And that’s why God is checking us so carefully right now, to see how caught up in the lust for money, tavot maimon, we really are.
The more of us can kick free from it, and start to trust more in God and less in our savings and ability to manage money, the easier this next stage will go.
So, I give us all a blessing that we will replace our stingy, ayin hara with a generous ayin tova. That we will want to give to others generously. That we won’t worry about spending what we need to, in order to live and to celebrate Jewish holidays, and give ourselves and our families what we really need.
Because when enough of us get out of the Land of Money, Moshiach will come.
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