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So I was recently studying Gemore Avoda Zara 2b with my friend. This part gave us some trouble:

אמר להם הקב"ה במאי עסקתם אומרים לפניו רבש"ע הרבה שווקים תקנינו הרבה מרחצאות עשינו הרבה כסף וזהב הרבינו וכולם לא עשינו אלא בשביל ישראל כדי שיתעסקו בתורה אמר להם הקב"ה שוטים שבעולם כל מה שעשיתם לצורך עצמכם עשיתם תקנתם שווקים להושיב בהן זונות מרחצאות לעדן בהן עצמכם כסף וזהב שלי הוא שנאמר לי הכסף ולי הזהב נאם ה' צבאות

And I had a question: what is the point of Romans telling God that they made a lot of money, and what does the answer mean? Meaning, how helpful is for Jewish people if there are rich gentiles, and what does it mean that all the "gold and silver" belongs to Hashem, what lies behind this dialogue?

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Without looking at any commentaries on this passage, I'll just write my own interpretation, based only on text itself (and possibly accidentally integrating a number of lectures I've heard on it in the past).

Let's break down the Gemara, bit by bit, and see if any of your questions remain:

אמר להם הקב"ה במאי עסקתם
God said to them (the gentiles), "What have you accomplished?"

This should answer your question "what is the point of Romans telling God that they made a lot of money" -- they were responding "This is what we accomplished."

They answered:

אומרים לפניו רבש"ע הרבה שווקים תקנינו הרבה מרחצאות עשינו הרבה כסף וזהב הרבינו וכולם לא עשינו אלא בשביל ישראל כדי שיתעסקו בתורה
They said to Him: "Master of the world! We constructed many marketplaces, we made many bathhouses, we amassed much gold and silver -- and we only did it for the Nation of Israel, so that they could learn Torah!"

They answered God, listing all of their accomplishments, ending of with the claim that they did it for the Nation of Israel, so that they would be able to learn Torah.
I think this can answer your question "Meaning, how helpful is for Jewish people if there are rich gentiles?" -- they claimed that whatever they put up, it was only so that the Jews could use their infrastructure, and not bother themselves with those construction projects, so that they could learn more Torah.
They claimed that they accumulated large fortunes, only so that they could support the Torah learning of the Jews.

God doesn't buy this lie:

אמר להם הקב"ה שוטים שבעולם כל מה שעשיתם לצורך עצמכם עשיתם תקנתם שווקים להושיב בהן זונות מרחצאות לעדן בהן עצמכם כסף וזהב שלי הוא שנאמר לי הכסף ולי הזהב נאם ה' צבקות
God says to them: "You fools (lit. fools of the world; most foolish in the world)! Whatever you accomplished as a nation, was only for your own sake! You made marketplaces so you could have prostitutes, bathhouses for yourselves to lounge in. And that gold and silver that you amassed? That's not even yours! As the verse states (Chaggai 2:8): 'Mine is the gold, and mine is the silver, so says God of the Hosts.'"

God tells them that whatever accomplishments they made, they only did it out of their own self-interest.
And that gold and silver they were so proud of? That was never really their's anyway; all wealth (gold and silver) belongs to God, because everything belongs to God.
That, I think, is the answer to "what does it mean that all the "gold and silver" belongs to Hashem?"

I hope this helps you :^)

( all above translations are my own )

  • You didn`t have to break the whole Gemara through, it was not necessary, I got it :). The point is everything belongs to God, so why to point out davka gold and silver? – havarka Dec 8 '14 at 2:56
  • I wasn't sure :) .....the point of gold and silver is because that's the wording of the cited verse (Chaggai 2:8). – Shokhet Dec 8 '14 at 2:57
  • Could we say, that if their intention in making bridges and marketplaces would be for us, than the money which they made could be consider as theirs, but since they didn't make it for us, then God is not gonna our toiling in Torah for gold and silver so to say? I understand, that's the wording of the verse, but I mean in general what does Gemara want to teach us by saying that Romans are braging about how much gold silver, diamonds, shares whatever they have?! Perhaps, that their achievements are materialistic and and not spiritual? – havarka Dec 8 '14 at 3:00
  • @havarka Tip for you: use the apostrophe ' (left of the enter key), instead of the tick mark ` (top left of keyboard) ....the Markdown that these sites use marks anything in between two tick marks as code, which is what's giving you that funny look. – Shokhet Dec 8 '14 at 3:04
  • Meaning if they did it for Jews, all those things so to say they could exchange it for gold and silver and could really belonged to them. – havarka Dec 8 '14 at 3:04
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I think the answer to your question about the gold and silver lies a bit earlier on that very blat. אמר רבי יוחנן זו רומי חייבת שטבעה יצא בכל העולם. Apparantly, having the single unanimously accepted coin was already a strike against them. And they knew it. They tried to enter these litigations by presenting that known fact as a positive point on their part.

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