We learned that money is a fiction. Money is a useful fiction, it's even a productive fiction, but it isn't real. All it is is a commonly held consensus that a digital record stored in the computers of some financial institution, or the equity of a certain property registered in our name, represents a value of X in goods and services. We build further fictions upon this fiction (like the fiction of an anticipated return from an investment) and more fictions upon those fictions (like the fiction of the leverage value of the anticipated return of an investment). Some financial "wizards" have "succeeded" in perpetuating the fiction of money to the 5th or 6th or 7th degree. But no matter how many times you layer over the fiction, it's still a fiction. And when that consensus unravels, when the collective confidence in the fiction of money begins to slip, then we're left with.... nothing.

Turns out that we never had that money in the first place – it had usWe learned that money is not a measure of worth. A man wakes up in the morning, logs in to his accounts, checks a few numbers, makes a few calculations, and reaches the conclusion that as of 7:42 am of this particular day on the calendar he is "worth" fifty million dollars. Or $1,308,772.45. Or twenty-five cents. Whatever. And then a certain market halfway across the globe hiccups in a certain way, and now he's "worth" double that?

Really? Is he now a better person? Is he now happier? More loving to his family, kinder to strangers, more fulfilled in his heart? And if, G‑d forbid, the market gives another hiccup and the digits in his portfolio are suddenly half or a quarter of what they were yesterday, now he's "worth" that much less?

We learned that money is a means, not an end. For years we lived for money. We worked to earn it, and when that wasn't enough we worked overtime or took a second job, and expended anxious hours and sleepless nights to manage it and "grow" it. We sacrificed everything – family, community, peace of mind – for our money. And where is all that money now? Turns out that we never had it in the first place – it had us. We learned the hard way (but is there any other way to learn?) that money is a tool for life—not the other way around.

We learned that what we give is more ours than what we gain. The money we make never truly belongs to us. It either disappears into thin air at some point, or it saps our strength and steals our lives. But every hour spent with our children, every dollar we give to charity, every positive endeavor we support—these can never be taken from us. They are ours forever.

We learned the true meaning of financial security. For thousands of years, people got up in the morning, worked the land or toiled at their craft, collected a day's earnings or a season's harvest, and lived their lives. Their sense of security derived not from their bank accounts and stock portfolios, but from the confidence that the same G‑d who created them and placed them upon this earth also provides their means of sustenance. No, there are no free lunches falling down from the heavens – after all, G‑d created us to be His partners in the business of life, not free-loading guests – but if we do our part, G‑d will do His.

Life has become more complicated since those simple days, more sophisticated, and yes, more rewarding. Today, "doing our part" means not just getting a job, but also acquiring mortgages, insurance plans, retirement accounts and a slew of other "financial instruments." But the basic equation remains the same: we do our part to better G‑d's world, and G‑d does His part in providing us the means to do so. It is to this partnership with our Creator that we have learned to look as our source of happiness, fulfillment and security.

It's been a tough year. But we've gained far, far more than we've lost.