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PRAYING FOR PARNASAH (income)

Rabbi Rafi RankDear Cyber Rav,

Over the past six months, my husband and I have watched our savings plummet by 50%.  We can’t quite believe what has happened, but it has, and knowing that others are in the same boat is frankly, small comfort.  I am devastated and feel violated by those in whom we trusted these funds.  Don’t misread me—I am not materialistic, or at least I never thought I was.  Yet now I find myself asking God for help—not strength but actual dollars.  And when I catch myself speaking in that way, I am so ashamed.  Asking God for money?  What does that say about me?  How badly have I sinned?

Looking for the Right Prayer


Dear Looking for the Right Prayer

If asking God for money is what you perceive to be a sin, then I pray that all the wicked of the world sin with that sin alone.  The world would be in far better shape.

But the real point here is that you haven’t sinned.  If you can’t speak to God with whatever is in your heart, using your own words however inarticulate you may be, then we cannot speak to God at all.  And that’s just not the reality.  We can always speak to God and we can always pray to God for whatever it is we want.  And actually, praying for parnasah, a Hebrew word meaning sustenance or income, is certainly a part of Jewish prayer.  We ask for sustenance three times a day when we ask God to render an ecological environment suitable for crop growth and proliferation.  That may be more of a farmer than a banker’s prayer, but it is essentially the same idea—income is a blessing. 

Judaism is not averse to wealth; it is averse to stinginess.  Judaism is not averse to material possessions; it is averse to the ingratitude that so often accompanies the acquisition of abundance.  These are tough times and, I believe, tough times that will pass.  To can ask God for income is not wrong, but better to ask God for the fortitude to endure this economic downturn and the courage to make the sound decisions we need to make now in order to retrieve our losses or at least get our savings to move in the right direction.

Within this dismal economic environment, sins have been committed.  But they are sins of greed or sins of excessive risk-taking.  There is also the sin of brazen fraud which has now come to light with the arrest of a Wall Street insider for perpetrating a Ponzi scheme resulting in multi-billion dollar losses.  Those people have sinned and have much soul searching to engage in if not subject themselves to authorities who ought to prosecute them to the full extent of the law.  But a family, such as yours, which has suddenly found itself bereft of its financial safety net, has every right to turn to God in prayer, even if it’s as simple as—God, please help us get our house back into order.  That’s no sin—that’s heartfelt prayer. 

God bless you and please—do not despair.  Remember that as important as money is—and it is!—it is nonetheless not the most important thing in the world, and may not even be within the top ten.  There are plenty of other blessings in our lives.  Let’s thank God for them without abandoning the necessity to pursue our financial welfare in a smarter way.

CyberRav,

Rabbi Rafi Rank


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