Tishah B’Av to Rosh HaShanah: What Money Cannot Buy

From the Rabbi’s Study


Tishah B’Av to Rosh HaShanah: What Money Cannot Buy

Business people once met for dinner some years ago and began to discuss money. One successful and aggressive business mogul made the statement that money can buy everything. In fact, he wrote out a check for five thousand dollars and told his dinner companions that they could have it if they could convince him that there were four desirable things that money could not possibly buy.

One colleague called the waiter over, borrowed his pen, and on the back of the menu listed four things that money could not buy: a baby’s smile; youth after it is gone; the love of a good person; entrance into heaven. Without another word the business mogul handed over the check.

Yes, it is important to understand what money can do, but it is just as vital to comprehend what money cannot do.

The seven weeks that begin following Tishah B’Av (August 6-7) and that lead us into Rosh HaShanah and the new Jewish year is the time for us to start reflecting on our lives. As part of that reflection, we might consider what our goals in life are, what our relationship to money has been, and how these two things intersect.

Such reflection will help us with the continued development of the skill of knowing how to spend wisely both our money and our time. Let us consider:

We spend more money on eye make-up than on research. This suggests that we are more interested in how we look rather than how we see.

We spend more time watching videos on social media than we do reading. This suggests that we would rather be entertained than challenged to think.

We spend more energy in managing our money than in making life worthwhile. This suggests that we are more concerned with our finances than our feelings.

Here is my list of 108 things money cannot buy. This is 18 (chai or “life”) x 6 (days of the week).


admiration ethical choices home love resilience social intelligence
appreciation fairness honesty love of learning resoluteness spirituality
bravery feeling appreciated honor loyalty respect talent
character flexibility hope manners religiosity teamwork
charm forgiveness humanity mazel/luck second chance temperance
class friendship humility mindfulness self-awareness time
clear conscience godliness humor motivation self-control transcendence
common sense good health inner beauty new beginnings self-discipline true friends
community good idea inner peace open mind self-esteem trust
compassion good judgment integrity passion self-reliance trustworthiness
confidence good karma intimacy patience self-regulation truth
contentment good memories justice




self-reliance a 25-hour day/more time
courage a good name kindness perseverance selflessness


creativity graciousness leadership perspective sense of humor work ethic
curiosity gratitude learning piety sense of purpose work-life balance
derekh eretz


grit life positive attitude sense of responsibility your place in the world
emotional steadiness healthful relationships life satisfaction prudence serenity (calm) youth
empathy holiness life well-lived quality time with others sh’lom bayit (family bliss) zest


Perhaps we can pick seven and reflect and work on these during the seven weeks before the New Year, so that the New Year might be a year of goodness and a year of blessing.

May we learn to spend our resources with good judgment, our energy thoughtfully, and our time wisely. As a result, may this coming New Year be one that matters.


Rabbi J.B. Sacks