Prioritize. Many people feel discontented – not because they aren’t doing well but because others are doing better. Too often we look at what we don’t have and become dissatisfied and discontented, rather than thanking Hashem for what we do have and being content with what He has supplied.
Develop an attitude of hakaras ha’tov. It is remarkable that living in America we could ever think that Hashem has failed us materially. That attitude is possible only when we give in to the tendency to compare ourselves to others. The primary defense against this attitude is to thank Hashem for what we have. Thankfulness is a state of mind, not an accumulation of assets.
In Tehillim (Psalms) 100 it says, “Serve G-d with joy and contentment.” This statement expresses the principle of living with joy and contentment. Dovid HaMelech (King David) was defining the standard of our relationship with G-d. He was referring to the feelings one should have when offering the Todah or Thanksgiving offering. The Thanksgiving offering symbolizes a person’s desire to be near to G-d, and his realization that he lacks for anything. This is one reason Psalm 100 was incorporated into our daily morning prayers. Our rabbis expected that each of us would prepare for our encounter with G-d (Amidah – Shemoneh Esrei) by praising Him for the opportunities of life, regardless of life’s seeming difficulties and inconsistencies. By expressing the contentment and joy contained in the Psalm, which begins with the words, “A song of thanksgiving,” our mindset and focus would be proper for addressing G-d.
Being content with one’s portion is an age-old Jewish concern. In the book of Proverbs, we read, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face; A sad heart makes a despondent mood. All the days of a poor person are wretched, but contentment is a feast without end.” (Proverbs 15:13 and 15)
To be truly joyful with one’s lot in life is wise advice. It is a wonderful way to live, but how easy is it to adopt this attitude? How many of us are truly satisfied with our portion? How do we recognize our own good fortune? All around us, the world advertises the goods and services we all seem to “need.” Our world is characterized by material acquisition, and to paraphrase a popular game show, “Who ‘wouldn’t’ want to be a millionaire?”
This is the challenge: balancing what we need and what we want in order to become samayach b’chelko – satisfied with our portion. Happiness does not come through the acquisition of material possessions, nor from the acquisition of skills and knowledge. It comes through being content with what we have.
As we look at the entire picture of managing money together, couples who balance their power structure, budget their finances periodically, and learn the art of contentment, have the greatest chance of sharing a satisfying relationship and living beyond the moment. Next week, Part 26, Relating to your In-laws
Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force and author of a “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” To order a copy, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com. For more information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. You can e-mail questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.