What is the Relationship between Wealth and Wisdom?

            June 2013    
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The Rich Man and the Wise Man

By Nachum Mohl

Jewish stories are made to illustrate important concepts in living a good life. The following story is no exception.

In a long ago generation, there lived a tailor who barely made a living for himself and his small family. His only son was not the most brilliant student in the local cheder but what could one do? This was his only son.

The tailor worked hard but with his advancing age fell ill and was confined to his bed until he was able to resume his work. He felt doubly bad since besides not having any income, it was the time for the yearly tailor's trade fair in the large city. It was here that the tailor bought his fabric that his prospective clients could choose from so he could sew them new clothing.

He saved money towards this yearly event but alas, being ill prevented him from going. What could he do? To miss the fair would mean losing profits if he had to purchase fabric at retailers. So after a long time of consideration and internal deliberation, the man called his son to his side and spoke to him.

"Son, I need your help so that we may continue to prosper. I am too ill to go the yearly fair, so I am going to send you there in my place. The fair runs for three days. Spend the first day going around seeing the various merchandise available from the different vendors. On the second day, after you have seen all of the choices, make your purchases because if you will wait until the last day, the best deals and fabrics will be gone.

"I know that you do not know the business, but here is what you should do. Take my money and purchase a little from each dealer who you believe to have fabric that I can resell, that people will desire to make them suits or dresses. Do not buy a lot of one kind, for what one person likes, the other will not care for.

"Get various and diversified types of patterns and colors. I am counting on your to help me. May G-d grant you success. Here is my year's savings. Go in peace."

The young man what delighted to think that he would be traveling to the big city. He always dreamed of visiting the big city and now was his first opportunity.

With his suitcase in hand he boarded the horse drawn wagon and left his tiny village with dreams of seeing the sights of the big city and at the same time helping his dear father.

No sooner had they arrived in the big city than the boy's head turned to see the high buildings and motor cars, the trains and other sights that were not available in his tiny village. As the first day in the big city came to a conclusion with the sunset, the boy realized that he had not found yet accommodations so by the time he found a suitable inn he was quite tired and hungry.

At the inn he met many interesting people, people from all over who told him stories about life in other parts of the country and even of far away countries. He ate well and drank with his new friends. By the time he finally went to bed, it was very late.

He slept well and woke late the next morning a bit groggy from all of the alcohol of the previous day and by the time he finished breakfast and started out towards the fair it was already late in the afternoon. On the way to the fair he stopped to see a real live circus, something he heard about but never saw. But the time he left the circus and arrived at the fair, the fair had closed for the evening.

Well, not so bad, thought the boy, he still had the next day. He might as well see what the night life was in the big city that his new friends had told him about. He first went to a theater and was quite impressed. Then he went to a cabaret and enjoyed the singing, dancing and drinks. By the time he returned to his inn it was quite late and he was quite drunk. He fell asleep and woke late the next morning with quite a headache.

He finally pulled himself out of bed and managed to make it downstairs to get something to eat. There he met his new friends who asked him about his experiences. After relating to them his good times he suddenly realized that it was late afternoon and today was the last day of the fair. He had better get over to the fair and begin his purchases.

He left the inn and began in the direction of the fair but was distracted by the big department stores; he never saw anything like it in his small village. After much distraction he finally convinced himself that he really much get over to the fair; today is the last day.

By the time he arrived at the fair, most vendors had closed and had sold all their wares. The boy was distraught; what could he buy to bring back. Only one vendor remained with some red fabric that no one wanted. He considered burning it as the boy approached and asked him about the fabric. He realized at once that this boy knew nothing but had money that he needed to spend on fabric. It did not take much for the sly vendor to convince the boy that with the remaining money that the boy possessed he was will to give him the remaining red fabric and that it was quite a bargain too.

The boy gave over the money and took possession of the fabric. He ran back to the inn, grabbed his suitcase and boarded the horse drawn wagon to return back to his tiny village.

When the boy entered the father's room and showed the father what he had purchased the father fainted with agony. How could his son ignore his instructions and buy only red fabric? What will he do with it? Who would want a garment from bright red fabric?

The poor man felt ruined and fell into his bed totally weakened by his son's miss-purchase. He died of heart failure a few days later.


A few days later, you guessed it, there was the Russian revolution. The communists took over and everyone was told to show there support by hanging up and red flag or face the consequences of people who did not support the bloody revolution.

But who had red flags?

You guessed it. The only person who had red material for miles around was the son of the tailor. He cut the material into red flags and charged much money to the people who wanted to show their support of the Russian revolution.

Now the boy had become a very wealthy man. With his wealth brought him much honor. People from miles around came to consult him on various business matters and paid him for his advice.


What is the moral of the story? Well simply put, if a person has much money, it does not make him smart. Even if others think he is smart, it does not confirm anything.

In our lifetime, we have seen people who push and cheat and become wealthy. We give them much respect. But are they really deserving of the honor and respect that people give to them? Or have they succeeded inspite of their stupidity and they do not realize it.

Intelligence comes from using the brain properly. Learning Torah instills the ability to think in the learner. Intelligence does not come from wealth; wealth does not necessarily come from intelligence.


from the June 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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