Background: My informant, O, is a 19 year old male consulting over text with his 60 year old Persian aunt. He recalled hearing this proverb from his great grandparents and grandparents growing up.
مگه پول علف خرسه in Farsi
O: This one I kind of had to think about. At first I thought it meant more that money is a social construct, because I forgot that the proverb is asked in a questioning way, like, “IS money just leaves to a bear?” It really means that money is more important to us than leaves are to a bear. Money is worth more than leaves… *laughter* So it’s just a reminder that we can’t just expect money to be everywhere like leaves are everywhere in a forest, we can’t treat it like toilet paper. Do bears use leaves as toilet paper? Do they eat leaves?
Me: I don’t think they do. Maybe they eat leaves…
O: The sentiment is the same I think. We need money like bears need leaves, but we need to respect our money more than bears need to respect leaves. Leaves always grow back.
My thoughts: This proverb is essentially the Farsi version of “money doesn’t grow on trees”, in the sense that it’s meant to remind the audience that money shouldn’t be wasted on frivolous things because it’s something that one has to earn.