Tkae Yuor Tmie! - Ki Tisa 5772 by Cantor Lipp

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 12:03pm -- AJ Blog

I normally don't like playing word games with the Torah portion but this one is pretty cool.

The word v'natnu is a palindrome in Hebrew, meaning it’s spelled the same way backwards and forwards.  If you don't speak or read Hebrew, it won't be obvious but imagine the LETTERS that produce the word v'natnu were vntnv (the apostrophe and ‘a’ are transliterations of vowels which are not considered separate letters in Hebrew and the ‘u’ at the end is the consonant ‘vav’ being used as a vowel) and you can see the palindrome in transliteration.

Ah, but what does the word MEAN, you ask.  It means 'and they will give' -- yes, Hebrew packs a lot into a word, often a 1:4 ratio to English.

The insight offered and quoted in the Etz Chayim Chumash is that the person who gives also receives something inherently valuable in the transaction.

I just finished reading Happy Money by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton in which they make a number of useful suggestions about allowing our money to make us happier. 

The fifth of five suggestions, sort of a Chumash or 5-Books-of-Moses-Torah of Money-Happiness, is to Invest in Others, that giving money away (within reason) will make you happier than not doing so. They cite experiments in which people given $5 of disposable income and told to spend it on themselves are not as happy as those who are instructed to spend it on others. The happiness seems to be based on both the giving and the deepening of the relationship between the giver and the givee.

The first suggestion they make is to Buy Experiences rather than material goods, that even bad experiences will often be remembered and contribute to our long term happiness more than expensive material purchases whose happiness will depreciate almost as soon as we take possession. Material goods that are used and provide for experiences are to be evaluated on the likelihood that they will continue to do so on a regular basis. For instance, my wife bought our family an expensive elliptical exercise machine as a gift a couple of years ago -- it's one of the most expensive items we have ever bought as a family. And yet, we use it almost every day. Clearly, it belongs as much in the experience column as the material column. If we had been using it as a three-piece-suit hanger, there are other cheaper purchases that would have achieved that experiential goal more effectively.

According to the book, there have been experiments done where people have been given word games in which the results deal with money. Others were given word games whose solutions were about time. The 'money' solvers spent more time in the immediate future working harder. The 'time' solvers spent more time socializing and, presumably where appropriate, having intimate relations.

The rabbis were very wise in telling us not to discuss business matters or money on Shabbat even before these experiments conducted. In the spirit of the wisdom of the ages and the scientific insight of the present, I ask you to begin your Shabbat with the word game that constitutes the title of this Dvar Torah.


Sbahabt Saholm!

David Lipp