Jan 14, 2013

Financial Strategies from the People at Mesila

In response to the question in the comment posted to the previous post, what they can do is read the book, Your Money and Your Life: Mesila’s down-to-earth, Torah-based strategies for managing your finances. This book is a compilation of Mesila’s financial advice columns that ran in Hamodia.

Shmuli Margulies, Mesila’s chairman, said “The material in this book is very different from the material you will find in other books on financial management. Our goal in writing this book, like our goal in all of our activities, was to combine Torah hashkafah, professional knowledge, and the experience we have amassed in our years of experience working with families and businesses, in a way that will help people to successfully navigate contemporary financial challenges and achieve financial stability.”

Mesila's stated mission is to empower families and businesses to seek, achieve and maintain financial stability.
Mesila is dedicated to combating poverty by:
  • Raising public awareness of the importance of financial stability and independence
  • Promoting the development of attitudes and habits that lead to financial stability
  • Giving business owners the professional tools to manage their businesses correctly
  • Guiding people to create and implement sustainable, long-term solutions to the economic challenges they face
Contact information for Mesila is here

I read the book and overall, it sounds sensible.  It bothers me a little that although they talk about bitachon, they place such an emphasis on hishtadlus that I don't see where bitachon really comes into the picture.  For example, they believe in constantly upgrading your skills and marketability.  Why is that necessary if a person did reasonable hishtadlus? They will say that upgrading your skills is part of reasonable hishtadlus. 

I also wonder about their seeming belief that everyone can attain financial stability.  That seems to come from the mindset that if you put in the effort and handle your finances right, you will succeed.  Where is Hashem in this picture?


  1. Why is upgrading skills beyond normal histadlus? Doctors, for example, must upgrade skills. Should the sick be treated with outdated methods? The latest electronics require the latest knowledge and so on. Why should an employer want an employee with no new skills? Should Jews rely on miracles to gain employment? Is job training the antithesis of a Torah life?
    Hashem wanted farmers to plant and then daven for the success of the crop. This is what we must do in any endeavor. We must, however, do the planting.

  2. It wasn't said in the context of doctors who must know the latest treatment options. In certain professions, keeping up to date is a must, of course.

    Generally, an employer looks for an employee who has the qualifications to do the job. He hires him on that basis. How many jobs are constantly evolving that a person must constantly keep updating his skills?

    But I ask that somewhat rhetorically. I have no interest in going through a list of dozens of jobs (sanitation worker, electrician, secretary, principal, grocery store owner, optician, drummer etc.) and saying which need to upgrade their skills and how often and which don't.

    In short, I don't quite see where bitachon fits into Mesila's worldview.

  3. Different professions require different amounts of hishtadlus. For some, ongoing training is a must; for others, it's redundant. The choice to follow a particular career course is a choice to make a certain amount of hishtadlus.

  4. Mesila in general does not want people to rely on miracles because that is usually what got them into trouble to begin with. People who put their Yomtov expenses on credit cards and have bitochon that they will pay it off often find that the continued interest added to the payments escalates into growing debt. If they keep pushing bitochon, people keep using credit and never paying it off. I see that today, when the economy is bad, and the taxes just went up, rabbonim push for continuing to give tzedukah at the previous rates, despite having less money. That is bitochon. Using credit or going into debt may not be the avenue of bitochon that mesila wants to endorse.