Unlike other religions whose ideal is poverty, in Judaism wealth is not seen as something negative, as long as one has obtained his or her money in an honest way. The Rabbis however, formulated a very interesting concept, to warn us about the unconscious psychological connections between our wealth and our thoughts. They said: אין עניות אלא מדעת, “Poverty, ultimately, is a mental condition.” While there are several opinions on the nature of this statement, I would like to present here one explanation that I found very applicable to our modern times.
What is wealth? Wealth is not measured by what one has but by what one needs. Regardless of how much I have, if I need more than what I have, I am a poor person. The level of my poverty (and of my wealth) is the difference between what I have and what I feel I need to have. The wider this gap, the poorer I am, and vice versa.
I’ll explain it with numbers. In fractions, we have the numerator and the denominator. In “3 over 4” “three” is the numerator and “four” is the denominator. In our case the numerator is “what I have” and the denominator is “what I feel I need”. Sometimes my numerator, what I have, can be very high, for example, “9”. But what if my denominator, what I feel I should have, is 10, or 15 or 50? And sometimes my numerator is lower, say “3”, but my denominator is also 3. Who is richer, the one that has 9 or the one that has 3? It depends on the denominator. The one with 3/3 is richer than the one with 9/10, and much richer than the one with 9/50.
Normally, in the consumer society people try to increase their numerator to become wealthier, to reach the “conventional” denominator. But when one finally reaches the denominator, one discovers that the denominator has changed, has risen. Many people, perhaps unknowingly, live in a permanent state of “mental poverty.” They always “need” more, and they are always missing something. They are not aware of their fatal error: surrendering the control of their denominator into the hands of the consumer society. One of the best examples I can give is a cell phone. I have a Samsung 5. Very good phone. It has everything I need, and then a lot more. One day, Samsung announces its latest model: the Samsung “7”. And then, as if by magic, my Samsung 5 looks now insufficient … Suddenly “I need” (Samsung convinces me that I need!) a camera with more megapixels; a screen 13 millimeters larger than the one I have, and of course the indispensable fingerprint ID sensor (how was I able to survive without it?!). Having the Samsung 5 while “needing” the Samsung 7 is the best illustration of that mental poverty, the illusory 5/7, which makes me think that only when I get the Samsung 7, I will be rich! (that is, until Samsung presents the Samsung 8! ).
According to our Sages, the key to being truly rich is to be aware of our denominator and to maintain it under our control, and not under the control of the consumer society, as is often the case. The value of the denominator must be established by my religious values and principles, and be independent of consumerism and the world of advertising.
To take full advantage of this SEGULA and feel rich NOW, we should repeat as many times as necessary: “The less I need, the richer I am”. And: “I don’t need to have what I like; I need to like what I have.”