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Vayeitzei: Who Has Everything?

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

 “… if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear … (Bereishis 28:20)”

 The  Torah scholar … seeks none of This World’s goodness for himself. He’s satisfied with little, and is far-removed from luxuries, since he doesn’t want to be drawn by This World and is careful about its attractions that they not entrap him.

He works to elevate the world, to sanctify it, and not to lower himself to the world’s enticements. One who has fear of Heaven … will be cautious about becoming entranced with the world. ...

The lives of the nations revolve around the world’s external factors. Therefore, they love these superficialities to the point where they won’t separate themselves from them. In contrast, the center of the life of the community of Israel, is the Creator, and the “world” is nothing but a place to reveal His glory — therefore all the love is directed to Him.

Infatuation with the external world is a thick barrier between man and his Creator. Therefore, we examine every step of our life, to determine that illusions aren’t deceiving us, that the world’s honor and wealth aren’t bewitching us; we must flee as far as we can from every sign of externality. (Alei Shor, sixth essay, chapter 3)

Confusion has a partner: imagination. They spread a giant screen on which is displayed a spellbinding landscape of illusions. We find ourselves ambling along its magical path, a towering castle shining in the horizon … and suddenly … boom.

The screen has collapsed. There’s no path, no castle. A figment of the imagination. Suddenly, we see the real road behind the screen of falsehood, and the true castle that we wanted to reach, but the illusory dream had caused a mirage that halted us midway.

Sometimes in a store, I start to imagine that beautiful tablecloth on my Shabbos table. I’ve often seen exclusive table arrangements in advertisements, with candelabras…. Why shouldn’t my Shabbos table be exquisite? Maybe someday I can add a candelabra, too?

I’m holding the tablecloth and heading for the checkout counter. A corner of the illusory screen suddenly lifts. I gaze on the truth I’ve always known:

I see a Shabbos table where children sit happily, a white tablecloth, pristine, but simple. A child spills some wine, but nobody’s upset — there are three such tablecloths in the drawer, affordable and washable. I see my little girls in their Shabbos dresses, happily folding paper napkins, sure that the results will be impressive. Nobody’s going to photograph this table. It doesn’t need that. It’s meant to stay warm and simple, glowing with an inner light and Shabbos candles, zmiros, and discussions of the parshah — all for Hashem.

Mr. Confusion disappeared, dragging that screen behind him and leaving me relieved. I put back the tablecloth and went to buy a package of pretty napkins. How precious is Shabbos! How happy I am to host Hashem at my table!

Yaakov Avinu asked for nothing except “bread to eat and clothing to wear.” And it was also he who testified: “For Hashem has been kind to me, and I have all [I need] (33:11).” This was in direct contrast to Eisav, who had said, “I have plenty (33:9).” How inspiring are Yaakov’s words! For one who aspires to possess plenty can indeed become extremely wealthy, but he can never attain “everything.”

To merit “everything,” one must suffice with bread to eat and clothing to wear, and in the center of one’s world must be the Creator … and his sole purpose is to draw the Creator closer to the world and the world to its Creator. And with this way of life, he is considered of equal value to the entire world. (ibid.)

“I have everything!” I want to exclaim and to face bravely those small voices within my heart who keep trying to convince me to acquire more and more, assuring me that I need it and must have it: My kitchen is old, my clothes don’t have designer labels, my chicken isn’t gourmet fare, and going out with my husband to the park is worthless — we can’t enjoy an outing unless we’re at a restaurant.

“I have everything.” I suddenly understand. I have the best life in the world, because Hashem is at the center of it. No purchase of luxury items can make me any happier.

From here we learn a basic mussar lesson for the true Torah scholar — not to allow luxuries to enter his home. Let his home be recognizable as the home of a Torah scholar and let his life’s ambition be not to have “plenty,” but to have “everything.” (ibid.)

Every day that I remember this, every day that Hashem is the center of my world, is another day when I have everything.

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