Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom on True Prosperity
Rabbi Nachman teaches,
Those sunk in craving for wealth are constantly in debt. When people are dissatisfied with what they have, they take risks and borrow from others in the hope of making large profits from the investment. This way they become saddled with a mighty burden of debt and end up dying as debtors. Even if they are not literally in debt when they die, they are always effectively in debt to their own appetites.
Many people have more than enough to cover their needs yet waste away all their days in pursuit of profit. They will submit to every kind of effort, risk and inconvenience for the sake of money. They behave exactly like one with actual debts strung around his neck – but they are driven only by the obligation they feel to their own desires. These are so demanding that it is as if they really did owe an enormous sum. In effect they are debtors all their lives and they die in debt to their desires.
Their entire lifetime is not long enough for them to pay off their debts to their desires, which have no limit, for ” No- one in this world achieves even half of what he wants before he dies” ( Kohelet Rabbah 1) . They are worried, bitter and depressed all their days because of their craving for wealth. The greater people’s wealth, the greater is their worry and sadness – because they are trapped in the net of idolatry, which is the very source of depression, darkness and death. Their entire lives are consumed with the problems and worries of wealth.
When people make dishonest profits or refuse to give money to charity, this is nothing but a fool’s game. The money plays with them in the same way that you can amuse a little child with coins, but in the end the very money kills them. “Who is the fool? It is the ‘other god’, the choking child-killer cough. It smiles at them with the allure of wealth in this world and ends up killing them. Why is it called a ‘child’? Because those trapped in it do not have the sense to escape from it” ( Tikkuney Zohar 140a) .
The way to escape the allure of wealth is through the purity that comes through guarding the Covenant and drawing closer to the Tzaddik, who is the very embodiment of purity and of whom it is written, “He who is good and walks before God will be saved” ( Ecclesiastes 7:26) . The Tzaddik possesses true wisdom and understanding, and knows how to escape this trap. Even the greatest of men need deep wisdom and understanding if they are to escape the pain and toil of earning a living. Most ordinary people suffer terrible bitterness all their lives because of this. They lose both worlds: this world and the world to come.
There is no limit to the bitterness of this world. “Were it not for salt, the world could not endure the bitterness” ( Zohar I, 241b) . [Salt neutralizes bitterness.] Were it not for the strength of the Tzaddikim, who observe the Covenant with absolute purity and who are called the “eternal covenant of salt” (Numbers 18:19 ) , the world would be unable to endure at all because of the terrible bitterness caused by the desire for wealth. The closer a person comes to the Tzaddik, the more he can sweeten this bitterness. But those who are far from the Tzaddikim and from personal purity, and especially those who are actually opposed to the Tzaddikim, will be the victims of the full force of this bitterness. How many are sunk in this! Pay heed to these words and perhaps you will escape.
Likutey Moharan I, 23
With permission taken over from: Daily Dose Of Rabbi Nachman