Photo Credit: Jewish Press
Chaim Saiman

In the ancient world it tended to be concrete, typically comprised of shiny, precious metals. Over time, it became understood as representational and metaphoric. The current consensus is that it cannot be seen, touched, or held. And yet, it motivates every facet of human behavior, directing how we invest our efforts and what we do with our waking hours. For many, it seems to be life’s primary purpose.

Am I talking about money or G-d? Typically held on opposite ends of the materiality/spirituality spectrum, there are many similarities between them. Money is increasingly intangible. What we used to think of as money is but a representation or effect of it, and before too long bills and coins will disappear entirely. Whether via lowering reserve rates, expanding federal budget deficits, crypto-currency, or NFT’s, money is essentially created ex-nihilo.


Atheists often assert that G-d is just a human delusion. A collective myth invented to give meaning to the cycles of life and death, or to enable collective action, or a tool for the powerful to lord over the weak. Yet almost everyone “believes in” money, and even the “monetary atheists” who dream of returning to the gold-standard usually lead their lives as if money really exists.

Rambam held that we can never truly say what G-d is; still, Jewish thinkers have always looked to more familiar concepts to describe facets of the divine. G-d is surely more than money, but perhaps this analogy offers one place to start.


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Chaim Saiman is Professor of Law & Chair in Jewish Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.