"And you should love HASHEM your G-d with all your heart and all your
soul and all your might." (Devarim 6:5)
With all your heart: With both of your inclinations. (Rashi)
With all your soul: Even if one comes to take your life. (Rashi)
With all your might: With all your money! There is such a person that his
money is more important than his body and therefore it is written and with
all your might/ money. (Rashi- Brochos 61)
What’s bothering Rashi? Why does he tell us about someone whose “money is
more dear than his life”? If we examine the order of the verse we can
observe that at first there is an increasing expectation of love from “the
whole mind” to “life itself” and then the verse seems to retreat to “all
of one’s money”. It’s as if I say “I love you 300. I love you 400. I
even love you 200.” How absurd! The number 200 is already included in
400. Therefore Rashi tells about a pathological personality type whereby
money is more-dear than life itself.
One of the longest laughs in radio history occurred during the Jack Benny
show. Mr. Benny who was notoriously cheap was -late in arriving at the
studio. His sidekick- straight man asked him why he was so late. He told
him that he was mugged on the way. The questioner continued to wonder how
that accounted for such extreme lateness. Does it really take that long to
be robbed? Jack Benny answered in his deliberate manner, “The robber
threatened me with the ultimatum, “Your money or your life?! And, I was
I don’t remember why I got onto this subject but while teaching a group of
Jewish prisoners I began to describe how monkeys are captured in South
America. They listened in rapture as I described the brilliant methodology
of the hunters. They take a coconut and hollow it out. They put inside the
coconut rice. The coconut with the rice is placed in a clearing. The
curious primate takes the risk to explore what’s inside the coconut. When
he discovers the rice he places his hand in to remove it.
The hole on the top of the coconut is calibrated so that the monkey can
just barely squeeze his hand to get his prize but once he makes a fist to
grasp it, his hand is now too large to allow him to withdraw the rice.
He’s stuck at this point trying to figure out how he can get his hand out
with the rice in his fist. He is not clever enough to let go of the rice
and pour it into his hand and he stubbornly refuses let go of the rice.
While he ponders his quandary a net is dropped on his head and he is
captured for the zoo or monkey soup or whatever fate that market-place
At this point the audience of prisoners broke out into uproarious laughter
as if I had said the funniest joke. I had no intention to make a joke. I
didn’t even know what was so funny. I asked one of the fellows, “Murray,
what’s so funny?” He told me, “That’s how we all got here!” There was a
second wave of laughter. This time I got it.
It may not be such an uncommon phenomenon. There are times when a person
will risk everything, just not to take their hand out of the coconut, and
let go. That becomes the tragic flaw and at that point it’s no joke.