There’s much wisdom to be found in wisdom literature (thank you, Rabbi Obvious!). On Sukkot, our source of wisdom is the biblical book Kohelet, Ecclesiastes. We’ll read a chapter of it at services Shabbat morning, as we do every Sukkot; this year, we’re up to Chapter 11.
Before you join me in making bankruptcy jokes, look at the first verse of the chapter: “Shelah lahmekha ‘al pnei hamayim–Send your bread forth upon the waters.” This is clearly a piece of economic advise, though it doesn’t have the same catchy cadence as “buy low, sell high.” In fact, what isn’t entirely clear is what kind of economic advice this is.
One possibility is that this is investment advice. “Casting bread upon the waters” means having a diversified international portfolio. Alternately, “casting bread upon the waters” reminds us of the tashlikh ceremony, which is an act of discarding something, giving it up. So the message is either to find ways to make your wealth grow, or make efforts to diminish it.
How do we decide which economic advice to follow? Wisdom literature shouldn’t leave us confused. On Shabbat morning, we’ll see how a Sukkah ritual can help us determine which interpretation is more true to Kohelet’s intent.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Moadim lesimhah,
Rabbi David Wise