Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | October 12, 2014

Are You a Good Investment?

Are You a Good Investment?

Are You a Good Investment?

We’re all looking to get more out of what we’ve got, and people have always been looking for investments with growth potential. Some people see the lottery as an investment, assuming that sooner or later they’ll hit it big, while others say you need to look at how solid the stock is, and its profit and loss statements.

Then there are other investments that we make. We invest time, energy, and resources in various projects and hope we will get a better return on them. For example, someone who learns Torah will get a reward. However, one who teaches Torah to others builds a “downline” as they call it in the Multi-Level Marketing world, and they earn residuals on all the Torah learned by the people they’ve taught.

When you hire an employee, you teach them the business, hoping that their newfound expertise will help you succeed further. Sometimes it works out and the person in whom you’ve invested becomes your star protégé and helps grow your business. Sometimes the investment goes south and the apprentice you’ve trained and taught everything turns around and strikes out on his own, taking your customers with him. That’s a bad investment.

Let’s talk about children. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars do we invest in our children’s physical, educational, and emotional needs? We hope that in the end we pass on our ideals and principles to the next generation and we will get some nachas. Sometimes that works, and you see beautiful children, grandchildren, and generations of Torah-true Jews. Other times the investment fails and kids become spoiled, or worse, resentful and take your investment for granted.

Now let’s put ourselves in the equation. Our parents invested in us. Our teachers, mentors, employers, and friends took a risk by investing their time and energies in us. Are they happy they did so? Would they say it was a wise investment and that they’ve seen appropriate returns on what they put in?

I saw a box of Jewish CD’s at a store one day that were marked, “Free – Please Take One.” I thumbed through the different titles, and decided to take two. How could I do that if the box said “Take One” and I was going beyond what was allowed? Simply put, I decided I was a good investment.

You see, when I listen to shiurim, on CD or otherwise, the information often gets put to use in my articles, my Divrei Torah (Migdal Ohr, as if you didn’t know) or my conversations with my children and others. In other words, I build a downline. That means the person who gave out the CDs hoping to change and inspire others, like the fellow we mentioned who teaches Torah instead of just learning it, has picked up a great distributor for his product. Would he be upset to find out that I took two CD’s if I’m giving him a 100-times-plus return on his investment? Absolutely not!

Now that’s a very narrow situation. Let’s look at other investments that are more subtle. Our friends, spouses and children invest their trust in us. Do we violate it by saying one thing and doing another? Do we live up to the expectations they have of us?

R’ Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld z”l once told his wife, “All these people who honor me think that I am such a Talmid Chacham, such a tzaddik. Oh, how wrong they are. I am unworthy of this honor.” Startled, his wife said, “But what about me?” “You,” replied the sage, “will get your complete reward in Olam HaBa because you put your energy into taking care of our family believing that you are supporting and enabling a Talmid Chacham, even if it isn’t true.” “But,” said the Rebbetzin, “I don’t want to go to Gan Eden without YOU!” “That,” smiled R’ Yosef Chaim, “is what I’m counting on.”

He understood that she was making an investment in him, and he felt an obligation to her. When others make an investment in us, we should feel the same responsibility to our investors.

Probably the biggest investment ever made was when HaShem took us out of Mitzrayim. He made miracle upon miracle, sent plagues across the land of Egypt while maintaining a clear delineation between the Egyptians and Israelites, then took us out amidst great fanfare, more miracles, and declared, “The Jews are My servants. I have invested in them by taking them out of slavery.”

Now, when someone gives you a job, especially when you were out of work before, you realize that they are making an investment in you and deserve a decent return. HaShem hand-picked us to work for Him, gave us a huge signing bonus (the Exodus, wealth of Egypt, and the Torah) and set us up in His office.

He puts His faith in us to be a profitable venture for Him, and now it’s up to us. Do we learn the Torah and live the Mitzvos? Do we appreciate what we’ve been given and not act ungrateful? When we go about our daily lives, do we think about the fact that we’re wearing G-d’s uniform and that how we behave will reflect on our Boss?

Bottom line, we need to ask ourselves each day, “Am I a good investment?”

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