What’s thin, green, and makes the world go ‘round?

Money can buy pretty much anything we can imagine. And often that includes people—their vote of confidence, their favors. It can also be used to cover up corruption and wrong-doings.

But money also can buy good deeds and can be given to help those in need. It can support truth and morality, and it can make our world a better place.

So, is money good or bad? And is it only a means to an end—good or evil—or does it have some intrinsic power?

As Abraham descended to Egypt with his wife, Sarah, they found themselves in grave danger. Abraham feared that the Egyptians might kill him so that they could abduct and marry Sarah. He asked Sarah, “Please say that you are my sister, so that they will benefit me because of you.” In the hopes of obtaining her hand in marriage, the Egyptians would bestow gifts on her “brother.”

Abraham wasn’t concerned about Sarah’s safety because he saw a protective angel constantly hovering over her due to her great merit, who told him not to fear for her safety (Zohar).

When Sarah was forcibly taken into the palace, G‑d plagued Pharaoh “because of the word of Sarah.” Rashi explains that every time Pharaoh or any member of his household wanted to approach Sarah with immoral intentions, she would instruct an angel to strike him and she would be saved.

Nevertheless, how could Abraham consider benefiting materially at such a time even though he was assured that Sarah would not be harmed? And later, when Sarah was miraculously freed from the palace due to G‑d’s intervention, the king sent the couple off with massive wealth. How was Abraham comfortable receiving this wealth?

The kabbalists teach that every object, force, or phenomenon has a spark of holiness within it. This means that is has a point of divinity that constitutes its soul or its spiritual essence. This spark causes the thing to exist and defines its function within G‑d’s overall plan for creation.

To paraphrase from Tanya (Ch. 36): Every aspect of creation has a spiritual light which is its life force, as well as a vessel which holds this divine light. This spiritual light can only be accessed if this physical item is used for G‑dly purposes.

When we use any object for a good purpose, we reveal and realize its divine essence.

Each of us has his or her own particular sparks, which we need to elevate. Our mission in this world is not complete until all the sparks related to our soul are redeemed.

As we move through life, travel from city to city or from one job to the next, we may think we are being propelled by seemingly random forces. But Divine providence is guiding us to those possessions and opportunities to which our soul is intimately connected. By using the material world towards a G‑dly end, we extricate its sparks and achieve our personal soul mission.

Abraham and Sara journeyed to Egypt so that they could find the lost sparks of holiness, the spiritual wealth that was there. Abraham was willing to rely on the merits of his wife because he saw her as an integral partner in their mission to extract and uplift these sparks of holiness.

The Midrash tells us (Tanchuma Lech Lecha 9): “All events that transpired with our Patriarchs serve as a sign to their progeny.” Not only did the events in our forefathers’ lives foreshadow similar events in the Jewish nation’s history, but their trailblazing actually brought about the ensuing events.

The Zohar (Lech Lecha) teaches: “Abraham’s descent to Egypt led to the subsequent exile of the Jewish people there. His ascent from Egypt made possible the Jewish people’s exodus and elevation from there. And just as Abraham left Egypt ‘heavily laden with livestock, silver, and gold,’ the Jewish people would leave with great wealth.”

This wealth was so essential to the exodus that G‑d mentioned it while entrusting Moses with his mission of redeeming the Jewish people at the burning bush. “Each woman shall request favor from her neighbor, silver and gold, objects and clothing, and you shall empty Egypt of all its wealth.” (Exodus 3:22)

And just as Abraham and Sarah accomplished their mission to leave with great wealth through Sarah’s merit, the Jewish people left Egypt in the merit of the righteous women of that generation.

The great wealth the Jews took from Egypt represented the power of holiness that the Egyptians had misused and which was trapped in their depraved civilization. Part of the Jewish people’s mission in Egypt was to extricate the spiritual good there and elevate it, by using it for a G‑dly purpose.

So is money good or bad? And what does it mean spiritually?

Some of us are rich, others are poor, and many are somewhere in between. Some of us have to work really hard or travel far distances to earn our living. But for all of us, the places we go and the things that we use are exactly the places and things to which our souls are intimately connected and which are waiting for us to elevate.

Our job is to find the divine spark within every situation by utilizing our resources, power, and opportunities to do good. The twinkle of those coins in your pocket or purse might just be the shine of some lost sparks that are waiting for you to uplift.