Bal Tash-chit / frugality

prudent in saving; the lack of wastefulness


Guide for Your Group



Ask each person to introduce themselves and to share with the group a part of their day or week they would like to bring with them as they begin this conversation, and/or a part of their day or week they would like to leave behind.


As we gather in our Sh’ma group, may we honor the values of our Jewish tradition. May we bring compassion, insight, and wisdom to our learning and conversation. May we recognize the Divine Image in one another, and let that awareness be reflected in our words and actions.


Baruch atah Adonai chonein ha’daat.

Blessed are You, Adonai, who grants us wisdom and awareness.


Before we begin, let’s review the brit—the covenant—that animates our time together:

  • Accountability: I’ll show up to our agreed upon times. I’ll let the guide(s) know the (good) reason I will be absent. I will also be punctual and respect everyone's time.

  • Presence: When we’re together, I’ll be present and mindful. I will listen and share. Life (and our mobile devices) offers many distractions, but I will stay present and engaged.

  • Double Confidentiality: I’ll maintain complete confidentiality. What I hear and say stays here. It means that even when I see group members in another context, like at Temple or in the neighborhood, I will not initiate a conversation on what has been shared.

  • Vulnerability: I’ll stretch myself to be as open and honest as possible with my perspectives and experiences in order to create a safe environment that might encourage others to takes risks as well.

  • Respect: I will remember that all of us are here for a common purpose and I will respect and acknowledge everyone in my group.

  • No Fixing, Advising, Saving or Setting Straight: I will give each person the gift of true attention without trying to “solve their problem.” No advice unless it’s asked.

  • Listening: I understand that some of us are talkers, while some of us are quieter. I’ll be aware not to dominate discussions and to balance how much I’m talking with how much I’m listening.

  • Curiosity: Judaism is a religion of exploration; of big questions more than answers. I will get the most out of my group by being open to our discussions and the people around me.

  • Ownership: This is our Sh’ma Group. This is our community to create. While we have guidelines and suggestions, it is ours to shape and form. We will get out of it what we put into it.


Reflect on Last Month’s Discussion/Conversation

What challenges did you face in pursuing last month’s virtue?

What are you still thinking about from your last discussion?


Today’s Discussion/Conversation

Compare Ben Franklin’s definition of the virtue with the passage from Pirkei Avot. Use the questions below to help guide the conversation.


Make Your Commitment

Before your meeting ends, set a goal for yourself for how you can better live that month’s virtue. Share it with the group and plan to follow up on how you did at your next meeting.


Example: For frugality, could you create a daily budget to evaluate what you spend and how? What is worth the money you spend? What isn’t?


Side-By-Side: Ben Franklin and Pirkei Avot

Ben Franklin’s Definition

Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself. Waste nothing.



Pirkei  Avot

(PA 2:7)

The more flesh, the more worms. The more possessions, the more worry. The more wives, the more witchcraft. The more maidservants, the more lewdness. The more man-servants, the more theft. The more Torah, the more life. The more sitting [and studying], the more wisdom. The more counsel, the more understanding. The more charity, the more peace. One who has acquired a good name has acquired for himself. One who has acquired words of Torah has acquired for himself the life of the World to Come.


(PA 4:9)

Rabbi Yonatan says: Anyone who implements the Torah in poverty, his end will be to implement it in wealth. And anyone that disregards the Torah in wealth, will in the end disregard it in poverty.


Questions To Discuss

Both Pirkei Avot passages suggest what we should value and what we shouldn’t. How does this coincide with Ben Franklin’s definition?


How does frugality play out in Jewish ritual or holiday life?


How might you become more frugal? Is frugality a goal for you?


Conversations about Judaism and frugality are quite loaded — why is this? And what are some ways to change the conversation?


In what ways could our community be more frugal? How can the practice of frugality benefit the community?



Click here to download a copy of Frugality



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