I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners . . . — Ecclesiastes 5:13
Wealth, like anything else, can lead to good or bad. This may surprise some people because we live in a society that teaches us the person with the most is the “winner.” Wealth is seen as the answer to our problems, the cure for our sadness, and a promise of security.
But none of that is true. It’s a lie that’s been sold and bought by many. Wealth can be good when it’s used properly. Money is a tool that can be used to help others and serve God. However, the book of Ecclesiastes warns us that money can be harmful if we allow it. Solomon wrote: “I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners . . . ” The Jewish sages comment that this verse is a reference to Korah, the man who led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron when the Israelites were in the desert. (You can read about it in Numbers 16.)
According to Jewish tradition, Korah was extremely wealthy. He was also a prominent leader in Israel. But his exceptional wealth led him to believe that he deserved more and that he was better than anyone — even Moses and Aaron. But what Korah had did not satisfy him; in fact, it made him crave more. As a result, Korah led a rebellion that ended in his death as well as thousands of his followers. All that money and power could have been used to live an extraordinary life. Instead, Korah let it lead to his downfall.
Interestingly, while Korah’s sons were originally swallowed by the ground with their father, according to Jewish tradition, Korah’s sons didn’t die. The sages teach that they repented while underground and God miraculously saved them.
We hear about Korah’s sons later on in biblical history. Their songs are included in the book of Psalms. In contrast to Korah, his descendants learned to embrace their lot in life. They thrived as Levites who were included in the Temple service. Instead of wanting more, they chose to make the most of what they had and who they were. The result was that they found their unique voices, penned Psalms that we still read today, and experienced the joy that comes from fulfilling their God-given purpose.
What an important lesson for us today! I want to encourage us to embrace our lot. I pray that we will find satisfaction in what we have and who we are. The truth is that we are enough and God provides us with all we need.
It’s not about how much we have, but how much we can enjoy what we have – and that joy comes from gratitude for our blessings, sharing what we have with others, and fulfilling God’s calling on our life with the tools He has given us.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President