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Monday, 17 August 2015

Why must good-will have a price?

Daf Yomi Nedarim 85


Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa was once standing outside his shul waiting for a minyan.   A fellow was rushing along and he asked him whether he’d like to join them for services. 
‘I’m sorry, I can’t.  I’m in a hurry,’ said the man.
‘Where are you in such a hurry to get to?’ asked the rabbi.
‘I’m running after my parnassah (livelihood)’ replied the man.
‘I see you’re running,’ said Reb Simcha Bunim, ‘but how do you know you’re running after your parnassah?  Maybe you’re running away from your parnassah!’

One who stole his friend’s non-tithed produce and ate it must make full restitution, according to Rebbe.  Rabbi Yossi bar Rabbi Yehuda says that he need only pay the value of the tithed produce (i.e. approximately eighty percent of the total original cost).
The Ran explains: The thief may deduct the value of the potential tithes, since the owner would have had to give it away to the priest and the poor anyway; and so it does not belong to him.
The Gemara asks: Is the basis of their debate not the following?  Rebbe would seem to maintain that the intangible pleasure has monetary value, whereas Rabbi Yossi bar Rabbi Yehuda seems to opine that the intangible pleasure has no monetary value. 
The Ran explains: Even though the owner does not keep the tithes, he still gets to choose which priest he would like to give the tithes to, creating an intangible benefit.  Can you put a price on that?

When accountants assess the value of a business, there is a line item called ‘good-will.’  It is the intangible amount that the business is worth, which none the less retains a monetary value.  It may be an intangible benefit, but business is business and everything has dollar cost.

In the twenty-first century, we are assigning monetary values to more and more of our intangibles in life.  If it doesn’t have a monetary value, we ask ourselves whether it’s worth pursuing.   Our lives today are driven by the bottom line – how much is it worth financially to me?  If there’s a dollar cost that I can ascribe to this benefit, then it’s worth running after.  If not, move on.

But there’s so much more to life than a number.  Money is merely a vehicle to what’s really important in life.  If you’re spending your entire life running after your livelihood, how do you know you’re actually running after life?  Maybe you’re running away from your true purpose!

What do you live for?  Why are you here on earth?  What is the purpose of the money you work hard to earn?   Mastercard’s slogan used to be, “There are some things in life money can’t buy.  For everything else, there’s Mastercard.”  What are those things in your life that money can’t buy?  What are the intangibles that you can’t put a price on?

You can’t put a price on family time.  Every moment you spend with your loved ones is priceless.  You can’t put a price on G-d time.  Every moment you spend learning Torah, doing mitzvos and in prayer-communion with the Almighty is absolutely priceless.


Money is there simply to serve the important things in life.  If everything in life has a monetary value, you’ve lost your direction and connection to a higher purpose.  May you earn the right amount to minimize the time spent on running and maximize the time spent on living!