A brief account of the history of money further explains its allure. Before currency, as we know it today, became established a person in search of a particular commodity would purchase it with a commodity of his own. For example, in need of flour he would seek out someone who desired chickens, of which he himself had plenty. The two would barter and strike a deal.
As society expanded and progressed, it became inconvenient to haul one's goods across the countryside in search of an item one did not already own. Therefore, to facilitate trade, it became expedient to purchase commodities with precious metals such as gold and silver which possessed intrinsic value and had the additional merit of being easier to transport.
In time, even gold and silver proved to be cumbersome: they were too costly to obtain, and in quantity, were quite heavy to carry. Instead, it became practical to represent the value of gold and silver in the form of paper that governments promised to redeem for the stated values. In this way, people were able to carry around the potential value of these precious metals instead of the actual metals. As a result, money became a symbol of unrealized potential; a seemingly indispensable means to facilitate every human objective, including happiness.
In contrast to the notion that money facilitates happiness, the many evils that are associated with the pursuit of money are well recognized. Throughout history, societies have witnessed much moral corruption that results from seeking riches. The Talmud' addresses this issue when it states that "Torah comes from the mouths of the poor," (Nedarim 91a) implying that one becomes spiritually elevated only at the expense of material success.
Yet, the dichotomy inherent in money seems to extend into the Talmud. In one passage (Sanhedrin 96b),' the righteous are actually called 'money', elsewhere, the Talmud states that the righteous value their property more than their own personal safety!
Why does the Talmud espouse opinions that both condone and condemn the pursuit of riches? Is it moral to want riches? Because of money's potential to facilitate happiness and its almost inevitable association with corruption, these simple questions deserve profound answers. The Torah provides these answers; answers that dramatically affect the way we perceive ourselves, the material world, and the direction we take towards achieving happiness.