Many Jews are aware of Ben Zoma's famous statement (mAvos 4.1) that describes admirable traits of people, going through wisdom, strength, wealth, and honor and taking them out of their normal social context and putting them into a religious framework, citing Scriptural proofs for each of them. The one upon which I am focusing here is his on wealthiness:
One further interesting thing that Ben Zoma does is to notice the seeming redundancy with the latter part of the statement and bifurcate the timing of the goodness.איזהו עשיר? השמח בחלקו, שנאמר "יגיע כפיך כי תאכל אשריך וטוב לך." 'אשריך' בעולם הזה, 'וטוב לך' לעולם הבאWho is it that is wealthy? One who rejoices in his portion, as it is said (Ps. 128.2), "When you will eat of the labor of your hands, you shall be happy and it will be good with you." 'you shall be happy' - in this world; 'and it will be good with you' - for the world to come.
Anyways, that's fairly well known. But when I came across a beraisa on Shabbas 25b, I learned of other tannaitic perspectives:
To me the only one that sticks out in this text is Rabbi Akiva's statement, as the other three are all clearly indicative of wealth. Perhaps a woman of fine actions is found in the upper levels of society and one must be wealthy enough to be with the in-crowd. Otherwise, it sticks out, which probably is so.
כל שיש לו נחת רוח בעשרו דברי רבי מאיר
רבי טרפון אומר כל שיש לו ק' כרמים ומאה שדות וק' עבדים שעובדין בהן
רבי עקיבא אומר כל שיש לו אשה נאה במעשים
רבי יוסי אומר כל שיש לו בית הכסא סמוך לשולחנוWho is a wealthy person?
"Anybody who has pleasure (or comfort) in his wealth," the words of Rabbi Meir.
Rabbi Tarfon says, "Anybody who has 100 vineyards, 100 fields, and 100 servants who are working in them."
Rabbi Akiva says, "Anybody who has a wife pleasant in actions."
Rabbi Yose says, "Anybody who has a bathroom (or a privy) close to his [eating] table."
In my estimation (no, I haven't done research on this topic, though I'm sure it's something about which people have written already - who knows? maybe Prof. Tirosh-Samuelson wrote about it in her book on Jewish happiness), Ben Zoma wasn't arguing with the other sages in going about estimating wealth, but rather showing a different angle to it. Yes, there are practical considerations to determining one who is wealthy, but there is also a more democratic and personal lesson to everybody: Even if someone isn't wise, strong, wealthy, or honored as society may have it, one may still be so in the light of Scripture. (Who knows? Maybe I will expand upon this one day in a derasha.)
Tags: Judaism, Judaism, Jewish, happiness, Jewish happiness, wealth, Jewish wealthiness, Ben Zoma, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Tarfon, Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yose