Was Benjamin Franklin Influenced By Torah Thinking?

Was Benjamin Franklin Influenced By Torah Thinking?

Looking for a novel approach to money and the role it should play in your life? Why not consider advice from Benjamin Franklin, who in his era was recognized as a wise man and still is today?

Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers, wore so many hats that even today, more than 225 after his death, he is still a fascinating personality. Franklin is best known for his role in politics, but he was also a scientist, inventor, publisher, postmaster, author, statesman, and much more. He was also recognized as someone who was practical and who had a very keen understanding of both people and life.

It’s his Poor Richard’s Almanack that we’d like to focus on today. This was first published as a preface to his 1758 almanac titled The Way To Wealth, and was subsequently reprinted in over 100 languages.

Franklin’s ideas about accumulating wealth and the role money (or the lack of it) should play in life made good sense years ago and they still do today. To be sure, these won’t make anyone fabulously wealthy – this is not a guide to getting rich quick – but it is a refreshing and insightful “new” look at money.

*A penny saved is a penny earned.
This is Franklin’s most famous piece of financial advice. Although a penny is essentially worthless these days, the idea still holds up because saving even very small amounts of money, over time, may add up to significant savings. In any case, a penny is actually more than a penny because it’s a net amount; – a person has it only after paying taxes and other expenses. In other words, he has to earn more than a penny in order to save a penny.

He that is of the opinion money will do everything may be well suspected of doing everything for money”

*An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
Franklin believed that investing in oneself was just as important as investing for the future, and he did this by staying up nights to learn foreign languages, including French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, among others. Franklin believed that success comes not just from hard work but also from learning, and he never stopped learning new things.

*Having been poor is no shame, but being ashamed of it is.
Franklin accomplished an incredible amount in his lifetime but in no way was he a member of the privileged class; he came from very humble beginnings and “clawed” his way up through nonstop learning, becoming an entrepreneur, taking risks, and not being afraid to try new things. He never denied his poor start but he also never forgot it, and this very well may have been a motivating factor for working hard, learning, and being careful to save.

*He that is of the opinion money will do everything may be well suspected of doing everything for money.
Not only does everyone need to have money, but also, in these days in particular, there’s a cost for everything – even for doing many mitzvos. But money becomes a problem when it becomes the driving force in our lives and gets out of control. There are countless examples of greed, fraud, and deceit we have heard about on Wall Street, all of them ended terribly, and all could have been avoided by having a different attitude toward money.

*Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.
Franklin understood all of the problems being in debt unleashed and the difficulties of having to pay interest on it. In his opinion, it was better to slash expenditures, even if that meant doing without essentials, than falling into debt. And if one did fall into debt it was important to get out of it as quickly as possible.

*Money has never made man happy nor will it; there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more of it one wants.
There are two things that struck me about Franklin’s attitude toward money. The first is how well it has held up over time, even though the economy today is vastly more complicated than it was in Franklin’s lifetime. The second is that one gets the distinct feeling that Franklin was familiar with Jewish thinking, as several of these pieces of advice sound like they were strongly influenced by verses in Mishlei and various musar sefarim. Whatever their source, they are well worth considering.

Sources: businessinsider.com; moneycrashers.com


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