Working With Torah

A Guide to Parnassa (Online Edition)

Boruch Clinton

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Attitude is Everything

There really is no end to the benefits of a good attitude. Looking at the world around you can make your life easier, more pleasant and, ultimately, more successful. Best of all, you can acquire a good attitude for free and in a relatively short time. So, if you haven't already, please help yourself!
In this chapter, we'll briefly summarize some of the attitudes recommended by Chazal. This is more than just good advice: these things go to the very core of what makes us good at being human.
This is only a summary. You may like to devote a bit more time and effort to the subject. There is one small book, Rabbi Moshe Goldberger's "Watch Your Wealth" (Targum/Feldheim, 2001), that can really help. In short, pointed chapters, Rabbi Goldberger draws our attention to powerful (if seemingly obvious) sayings from the Torah and Chazal. But it's much more than just information: Rabbi Goldberger challenges us to feel the practical relevance of each Torah thought and to absorb it into our own world-view. Taken in gradual doses and accompanied by quiet reflection, this can have a lasting positive influence on a serious Jew.
In the meantime, here's my checklist of some of the ideas in the first couple of sections of Rabbi Goldberger's book. Spend some time each day thinking about these themes (looking up their sources would also be helpful).

Ideas drawn from Sefer Mishlei:

Recognize HaShem's hand in your success while making your own best effort (Mishlei 10; 4 and 10; 22). It's a bit of a balancing act, but we should aim for an approach that's built on the knowledge that HaShem is in charge and that He requires us to exert the right amount of effort.
Recognize that wealth is secondary (in your life) and doesn't, by itself, solve problems (11; 28). So why should we seek wealth? Spend time regularly thinking about various answers to that question.
Organize yourself and assess your qualities and resources (13; 13). This will allow you to properly appreciate what you have and intelligently manage both your expenses and your time.
Utilize your wealth wisely (think about the wisdom of each expense) (14; 24). Carefully assess the ways we use our money to ensure that they are rational and reasonable (and mindful even of distant consequences).
Give (be generous) (18; 16). And giving could end up being the best thing you've ever done for yourself (after all, the closer you conform to HaShem's will, the more likely it is that He'll support you)!
Avoid luxuries (21; 17). Besides the fact that you'll protect yourself from numerous bad midos, you'll also protect the wealth you have (leaving it available for important things).
Cherish money for what it can do - it's for wise use but it's not an end in itself (21; 20). Losing sight of money's real purpose can lead to channeling it to twisted priorities.
Be humble (it leads to financial wisdom) (22; 4). There's no midah like humility...and there's nothing like good midos to attract HaShem's beneficence.
Work (and prepare for parnassa) intelligently (don't follow the herd or live blindly) (24; 4). For more on that, read the rest of this book!
Use fear of failure to increase G-d's role in your life (by, for instance, developing a fear of spiritual failure), but don't let it paralyze you (28; 14)

Ideas drawn from Avos:

Recognize that all your money is really His (Avos 3; 8). It will change the way you relate to it.
Do your part: learn Torah, keep mitzvos, make histadlus (2; 18). These activities can both train us to more wisely look at our parnassa, and arouse HaShem's mercy for us.
Be disciplined. Save and spend money intelligently (4; 1). Discipline is a crucial tool for good decision-making and a key that can open doors to the proper observance of many mitzvos.
Do your work (honestly and pleasantly) according to G-d's will (2; 4). What, then, will prevent HaShem from showering you with success?
Be optimistic and think positively about yourself and about your finances (2; 18). Thinking negatively has no purpose and can only hold you back (don't, however, confuse this with genuine humility and the realization that you likely stand far below the level that HaShem expects of you - two vital attitudes).
Speak positively: words lead to attitudes and actions (1; 15). Even setbacks can be accepted in a good frame of mind ("what a valuable lesson that was") and future prospects, no matter how dim they might seem, can be approached with optimism ("I will succeed with HaShem's help").
Carefully choose your life's priorities (4; 12). How much money and energy should you invest in a particular project or dream? How much distraction from Torah and mitzvos is a reasonable price to pay?
Get the greatest benefit from the money you spend (3; 17). Allow your purchases to raise you up rather than drag you down - focus them especially on mitzvos (like tzedaka and chessed).
Remember that your ultimate goal is to serve G-d; make your money (and work activities) fit that goal (1; 2)