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  • Yehuda Pevzner

Where Are Our Priorities?

The way we choose to use our money can be a good measure of what our priorities are.

In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vayeira, Ishmael, Isaac’s half brother, behaves inappropriately and our matriarch, Sarah, asks Abraham to evict Ishmael from the house. Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, set out to wander in the desert. After a short time, their water runs out. Hagar takes her son and throws him under one of the nearby bushes. Seemingly, this seems silly. If the jug of water is empty, why are you throwing the child away? Throw away the jug!


Sometimes it seems that when the pantry is emptying out and the amount of cash in our pocket dwindles, the first to suffer are our value. Is the bank balance low? How can we even think about investing in a Jewish education for our children? After all, tuition is expensive. We would never give up on luxuries and comforts of any kind. But we will sacrifice the

observance of Mitzvot in the name of saving money.


There is a known story of a Jewish mother who comes from Eastern Europe and joins her son in the United States. When she arrives, she notices that he had shaved his beard and cut off his sidelocks. In shock, she inquires what had happened to him! He responds that America is not like the “shtetl”, the village in Europe, where everyone is Jewish, religious and sheltered. It’s different. Comes Shabbat and he goes to work! When she sees him leave, he again tells her that America is different. When she opens up the fridge and sees foods that should never be seen in a Jewish kitchen, he again explains to her that America is not how it was in the old home. Finally, when everything becomes too much for her, she asks him, "Yankele, tell your old mother the truth. Are you even still Jewish? "


It's not just a story from the 'shtetl'. It's happening now. The cost of living is high, and when resources are limited, instead of cutting down on the “extras”, we cut down on our priorities. Many reduce the time spent on their prayers. They opt to go to work, instead. Tefilin is expensive. We just can’t afford it. With the high tuition cost, people choose not to give their children a Jewish education. The rest is history. Bad history. Without a Jewish education and without a meaningful relationship with G-d, young people go around wondering why they should not do what their peers are doing. And the money we saved from tuition now goes to doctors, psychologists, or God forbid, to drug rehab centers.


Adults and children, alike, need stability and an environment with a healthy set of values. No matter how green the other field seems, and no matter how tempting, we must consider the spiritual and emotional security system that we need to survive and thrive - as Jews. Just because the bottle is empty, do not throw away the child!


Wishing you all a very pleasant Shabbat!

Candle lighting time (NYC): 5:47 PM