9/28/2006

Parnassah from the Sitra Achra

We’ve all heard of the Gemara Beitzah 16a that man’s livelihood for the upcoming year is determined on Rosh Hashana. Many of us have also heard explanations of fabulous wealth as being money that came from ‘impure sources’, or the ‘sitra achara’, etc. See here for a rather mainstream example.

I think there’s something to this, and one need not resort to explanations like ‘medical bills’ to prove how got will ‘balance everything out’. I also don’t really believe up in Heaven there’s a ‘good’ ATM and an ‘evil’ ATM. In fact, I tend not to recognize the ‘sitra achra’ as an independent evil, but as the result of potential good which is not balanced by other potential goods.

As my last few posts have reflected, the judgment of Rosh Hashana stems from a comparison of what we ARE to what we OUGHT TO BE. We look at ourselves, as it were, from God’s perspective, and as part of a total picture. Part of that is a re-evaluation of priorities in life.

We all agree that there our lives are governed by certain cardinal values: family, livelihood, ethical behavior, personal growth, etc. If all is in proper balance, then livelihood ‘knows its place’ and will be determined, and somewhat limited, by its relative importance. One can take a job which pays less, but which allows one to be home more, and vice versa. If all is in harmony, then indeed, one’s livelihood is determined on RH, when this evaluation is made.

However, one may become driven toward imbalance. One may neglect all other concerns and pursue livelihood at the expense of all else. Sure, it’ll get him more money, but the price will be paid elsewhere – not that ch”v he’ll have extra medical bills or something, but in one of the other important areas of life, be it family, ethics, or personal growth. Unfortunately, the old adage that ‘cheaters never prosper’ is simply untrue. Cheaters prosper. But is that prosperity worth the price?
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