Carefully Calculated by Rabbi Scott Friedman


There are many worthwhile investments to be made in life. It is difficult to balance our time and devote ourselves to all of them. We work to balance the time we spend with our spouses, children, extended family, and friends. We try to better the world as well as to support ourselves, our families, and our communities. We invest time in Davening, learning, Chessed, and many other important Mitzvot. We also invest time in relaxing, exercising, or some other form of necessary leisure. There is, Baruch Hashem, much to be done; the difficulty is finding the appropriate balance.

In Parashat BeShalach, as Klal Yisrael is gathering the treasures of Mitzrayim, Moshe is preparing to take Yosef’s remains out of Mitzrayim to be buried in Eretz Yisrael. The Gemara (Sotah 13a) quotes a Pasuk that states, “Chacham Leiv Yikach Mitzvot,” “The wise heart gathers Mitzvot” (Mishlei 10:8) and applies it to Moshe’s concern over gathering Yosef’s remains.

Maharsha asks why the Gemara quotes a Pasuk about a Chacham to describe Moshe. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the Gemara described Moshe as a righteous, holy, and pious person? Maharsha answers that Moshe carefully considered the advantages and disadvantages of taking Yosef’s bones. Moshe was not just righteous for doing so; he was wise. This was not only an act of commitment to Hashem, it was also a calculated decision of where to invest.

Furthermore, the Torah in Parashat BeShalach states, “VaYikach Moshe Et Atzmot Yosef Imo,” “And Moshe took Yosef’s bones with him” (Shemot 13:19). Why does the Torah state, “Imo,” “with him?” Is the first part of the Pasuk, “And Moshe took Yosef’s bones,” not self-explanatory? Rav Yissocher Frand quotes Rav Mordechai Ilan who answers that Moshe did the Mitzvah of bringing Yosef with him to Olam HaBa.

The Chofetz Chaim presents a well-known Mashal to express this point. There was a poor man who had heard of a faraway island filled with scattered jewels, free for the taking. The man hired himself out to work on the ship heading to the island in order to gain passage. Finally, after a long journey, the man arrived on the island. He was amazed that everywhere he looked there were precious jewels, just as he had heard. He immediately filled his pockets with diamonds and rubies and went to spend his newfound wealth. When the man entered a grocery store to buy food, the shopkeeper laughed and said, “Jewels are worthless here; if I want jewels, I’ll go outside and take as many as I want. Here, the currency is Schmaltz, animal fat.” The man couldn’t believe it, but he had no choice. If he wanted a place to live and food to eat, he needed to get a job and start to amass as much Schmaltz as he could. After working his way up, he soon was making huge amount of Schmaltz. Finally, the time came to leave the island and go home. When he got home, his family was so excited to see him and reap the benefits of all of his hard work. He unloaded all of the Schmaltz he had gathered to his family’s dismay. “What is all this?” they cried. “Where are all of the jewels you mentioned?”

Having lived on that island for so long, the man had become accustomed to the currency of the island, and had forgotten why he was there and what was the truly valuable. Moshe Rabbeinu, knowing full well the value of the Egyptian money, nonetheless decided to gather Yosef’s bones. He saw the entire situation and chose righteously and wisely.

This is not to say that everything in life is black and white. While we all do our best to be responsible in all facets of life, it’s important to consider a Mishnah that appears in Masechet Avot, “VeHevei Mechasheiv Hefseid Mitzvah KeNeged Secharah, USchar Aveirah KeNeged Hefseidah,” “And calculate the cost of a Mitzvah against its reward, and the reward of an Aveirah against its cost” (Avot 2:1).

Rav Noach Weinberg would ask, “If someone offered you a billion dollars for him to adopt your child, even in a situation in which the child would be taken care of financially, emotionally, and spiritually, would you take it?” No rational parent would agree to such a deal, in spite of all the benefits. Rav Weinberg would then ask, “Why, then, are so many of us willing to spend only minimal time with our children? Many emotional and spiritual issues Lo Aleinu are only being deepened due to lack of parental relationship and investment in our children.”

Let us all consider our gains and losses. Let us remember why we’re here, and keep in mind the relative value of our Schmaltz and jewels. “The wise heart gathers Mitzvot.” The time we spend with our families and our Creator is time invested that can never be lost. Growing up, my father would tell me that an investment in your children is one you will never lose. No one, at the end of his life, says, “You know what, I think I spent too much time with my family.” Let us hold onto the Torah’s currency and invest in Mitzvot for generations to come so that we will all be able to greet Mashi’ach with all the jewels we amassed along the way.

Building our Emunah by Yitz Richmond

Ezekiel Hart by Aryeh Krischer