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Who is Rich?

Lessons from my grandmother and Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel's Cantor Aronson's speech.

I am, according to Psalm 128:2 in The Old Testament. What matters, my Grandma Ray taught me when I was very young, is that you are rich if you are satisfied with what you have. My mom’s mom, Rachel Shapiro Tabak, was a very special woman who lived to be 93 years old.  I was reminded of this particular phrase/lesson this past Friday night as my Temple’s Cantor spoke during his retirement service/celebration. After 45 years as an exceptionally inspirational clergyman at Temple Shaarey-Tefilo Israel, Cantor Theodore Aronson gave those at services yet another lifelong lesson.

Grandma Ray’s philosophy and attitude had a great impact on me. She was an inspirational “other mother.” I am sure I did not appreciate my own mother telling me to be satisfied with what I had. She is the one I bugged to buy me another pair of designer jeans, another sweater….How often are young or teenage girls satisfied with the “things” they have? But, when my Grandma quoted the Bible, I listened. She made sense. “Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion, as it is written (Psalm 128:2) ‘You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.’” (from http://www.shechem.org/torah/avot.html) My Grandma made me feel good—like I was in charge. I could be whatever I wanted to be. If you enjoy the life you created, if you do your best to create a wonderful life, you can feel good. She never went into that much detail, all she had to do was quote the Psalm and I understood.

My Grandma had a very hard life. She fled Eastern Europe in the 1920s, following her husband to America. After a difficult, almost impossible journey via Cuba, she settled in with her husband who was already in New York. She continued to have personal and financial struggles. I am not really sure how she was able to endure the hardships she had. On paper, she was never even close to being rich. But, what was in her mind and heart made her a billionaire.

This saying puts the onus on us to create a life we love, no matter what we have. How many “rich with money” people do you know who are not really rich? I could feel “poor” because I don’t have my parents. I am deprived of their support. I could feel entitled to pity. But, I don’t feel poor. I feel fortunate for the parents I had. There are many worse alternatives. I know that.

“Other Mothers” (Post from Sept. 1, 2011) are all around us, they can be our grandmothers and clergy. I really must credit my Grandma Ray for empowering me to accept reality, the lot I am given, and do the most that I can with it. I appreciate Cantor Aronson. He is grateful for the richness he feels. And so was my Grandma. And, thanks to people like them, so am I.

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michelle harman May 26, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Best article I've read in a long time. Thanks for sharing.
Kalani Thielen May 26, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I agree with Michelle. Thank you for writing this, Shari. Your grandma was obviously a wise woman, and the principles you've shared here are words to live by!
Shari Stein May 29, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Thanks so much Michelle and Kalani!

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