The Gap between the Rich and the Poor

Written by Rabbi Stephen Baars on . Posted in Torah

According to Proverbs (13:7), “There are rich people who have nothing, and poor people who have great wealth.”

When Warren Buffett announced that he was giving away 99% of his net wealth to charity, he said it was because he can’t spend more than 1% of it. True, his 1% is a lot of money, but his magnanimous gesture begs the question: Why did he work so hard for the 99% just to give it away?


If the average worker today was to adopt the living standards of the average worker of 1915, he or she would only need to work 17 weeks a year, according to economist David Autor. Would it be worth it to you to work another 35 weeks a year for a big screen TV and an iPhone?

The fact is that once you make enough income to function (whatever function means to you), the only increase in the quality of your life is going to come from the relationships you have, not the things you acquire or your financial holdings. In a lecture addressed to students at Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia almost 20 years ago, Buffett said:

“If you get to my age in life and nobody thinks well of you, I don't care how big your bank account is, your life is a disaster. I know many people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them. That's the ultimate test of how you have lived your life.

The trouble with love is that you can't buy it. You can buy testimonial dinners; but the only way to get love is to be lovable. It's very irritating if you have a lot of money. You'd like to think you could write a check: I'll buy a million dollars' worth of love. But it doesn't work that way.”

By Rabbi Stephen Baars


Originally from London, Rabbi Stephen Baars resides in Rockville, Maryland, and serves as executive director of Aish Seminars. An educator and marriage counselor for the past 25 years, Rabbi Baars and his wife, Ruth, are blessed with seven children. Learn more about Rabbi Baars at  and