Planning for the Future – for ourselves, our families and even our synagogue
This week’s Torah Portion is Chaya Sarah. It opens with a discussion of the death of the matriarch Sarah, and Abraham’s mourning process over her death. Right off the bat we become enmeshed in a financial transaction that will be crucial both historically and religiously. Abraham should be mourning over the loss of his wife and busying himself with her proper burial. Instead he must take the time to purchase a family burial plot. It is immediately clear that Abraham wants to actually purchase the field. According the text, even when the owner of the field he wishes to purchase offers it to him for free, Abraham insists on paying for the site.
We learn several lessons from this episode at the beginning of the Torah portion. The religious lesson that we learn is that there is an obligation to do some preplanning for the future. Abraham should not have waited until the need was imminent to purchase the family burial plot. By waiting until the last minute he was forced to make this deal with Efron the Hittite that was much more favorable to Efron.
But it is not just about preplanning for our eventually deaths that the rabbis have learned from the stories of the Torah. Insuring our financial stability was seen as a religious obligation by our sages of old. In a few weeks we will read about how Jacob on his deathbed, calls in all of his children to bless them before he dies. The first son he calls in is Joseph and in the end he tells Joseph that he is to gain an extra portion of Jacob’s estate. The lesson the rabbis learn from this episode is the obligation to have our financial planning in place before we die so that we can provide for our loved ones and the organizations and institutions that were important to us during our lives.
Maimonides takes it one step further in expressing his belief that we have a sacred duty to remain financially prudent even during our lifetimes. He says:
“It is forbidden for a person to renounce possession of or sanctify his property (to the Temple or sacred causes) and [as a result] make himself a burden on society (lit., ‘trouble the people’). He should not sell his field and buy a house, nor [sell] a house and buy movable property, nor do business with the worth of his house (i.e., with the proceeds from selling his house). Rather, he should sell his movable property and buy a field. The rule of the matter is that a person should make it his aim that his property be profitable (lit., ‘to be successful with his property’) — not to appear a little well-off for a short time or benefit a little and [then] lose much.”
Maimonides takes the “Warren Buffett” approach to business. Long term, low risk, low yield investments versus short term, high risk ones. Invest for the future, not for the present. In doing so, you help maintain financial independence throughout your life.
With this in mind, we at Midbar Kodesh Temple, see it as our responsibility to serve as a resource for our own community, helping ensure that a solid foundation for the future is put in place. We will be offering a couple informative financial planning sessions. There will be no solicitations, it is meant to be an opportunity for us to learn the questions we should be asking and where to find the answers.