Friday, March 1, 2013

I Heart Materialism.

The scene is Parshat Ki Tisa, Perek 34 possuk 23: The Torah speaks about the mitzvah of aliyah l'regel; On Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, the (male) Jews from all over Israel were to go to Yerushalayim to see and to be seen by the holy Shechina- presence of God.
The Possuk continues by saying that ' man shall covet your land while you go to appear before Hashem those three times a year...'

God is trying to encourage everyone to make the arrangements to go to Yerushalayim. Having no males at home, people might be afraid that something dangerous might happen to their land or their homes, so this was a guarantee that nothing bad will happen.

The gemorah (Pesachim 8b) derives a halacha from this: Whoever does not own land does not have to go up to Yerushalayim on the three festivals.  The whole halacha of going up three times a year only applied to land owners.

Does this sound fair? The Torah seems to be discriminating against the poor! You can only partake in this special mitzvah if you own real estate? So what about real estate brokers.... do they get to go up to Yerushalayim per house sale?

The Kotzker Rebbe asks, "why doesn't a non- home owner have to go up to be aliyah l'regel?" He answers: 

Because he doesn't need to.

Only the person who owns land, who's connected to this world, who lives in gashmius, is someone who needs to go up to see the Shechina. The person who's not taken over by materialism doesn't need to go see the shechina because he sees it already- everywhere.

A person whose life revolves around their 2 BMW's, country home, and frequent flier miles, must go to Yerushalayim to see the holy Divine Presence of G-d, but one who is free from the materialism of this world sees the shechina everywhere, so he is therefore exempt from the commandment of 'reiyah', of going to see.

Everything in our personal lives, and in the world at large, can be observed in two different ways. Either as mundane and disconnected, or as significant and preplanned. We all know that some people will look at the glass half full, and others will see it half empty. But did you know that there's also gonna be a third person who says "... huh? There´s a glass?"

The human mind is like a parachute; it only works when it's open. 

The only way to notice and appreciate the beauty and holiness that surrounds us is to open up our minds and hearts to see it. 
Shabbat is the holiest day of the week. Ironically, it´s also the day that we eat the tastiest food, wear the nicest clothing, and take a leisurely nap. 

Oh, and what´s the first thing we do to welcome in Shabbat? We drink a glass of wine! 

We seem to be indulging in a heck of a lot of materialism on the most spiritual day of the week. Much more so than on a standard day. 

Wine is complete physical pleasure. Even more than that, the Gemora teaches that wine leads a person to sin, which makes it an accessory to the crime!

But yet, we may not partake in any of the Shabbat festivities until we have that glass of wine.

How exactly is all this materialism considered spiritual and holy?

Because we´re not Christians. Our goal in life is not to abstain from physical pleasure. Actually, the entire reason we exist is for pleasure! 
Here´s my proof:
How many days a year do we celebrate Yom Kippur; a day of complete abstinence from physicality and pleasure? 
How many days a year do we celebrate shabbat; a day filled with materialism and pleasure? 
Fifty two.

Now, I´m no mathematician, but by my calculations, this means...If the shoe fits, buy it in every color!

Well, almost. Like I said, I´m no mathematician. I left out an important part of the equation. 

Yes, the day of holiness begins with a glass of wine, in an expensive goblet. But before consuming it, we make kiddush on it. Kiddush literally means to separate and make holy. We are mekadesh the physical by elevating it to a spiritual level. 
Living in denial of the world we live in is not spirituality, and it's not holiness. Using the things we have in this world and elevating them to spirituality- recognizing God in them- THAT'S holiness. 

So, of course buy the shoes! Shoes can change a person´s life. Just ask Cinderella. But, it´s the motivation behind the action. Am I indulging in materialism to honor Shabbat? To make a kiddush Hashem? 
Only I can know my intention. And therefore, it takes a strong woman to admit when she has enough shoes. Which I totally don´t, by the way.

Rav Avigdor Miller ztz"l was a person who lived his life embracing the shechina. He used to walk through the streets stroking the flowers carefully and lovingly. When he looked at a flower he saw the masterpiece of his Creator. He would stroll along the Avenue thanking Hashem that his shoes had soles, thereby making his walk so much more pleasant and comfortable. 

I once listened to one of his shiurim where he spent a full half hour discussing the beauty and health benefits of snow. This is someone who was completely connected to God, all the time, everywhere. 

But, do you know why Rav Avigdor Miller is such a perfect example for us? Because he didn't disconnect himself from materialism in order to attain a high level of spirituality. He didn't fast every week, nor did he say s'lichos every month. The opposite, actually. As soon as the tape recorder was invented he was practically the first one on line in the store to buy it.

What did he want a tape recorder for? To record and distribute his shiurim

He taught us how to find the holy Presence of Hashem in everything we do.  

A chassid once approached his rebbe (not sure which rebbe, I guess it depends which group of chassidim you ask :) and asked him "Rebbe, what's the difference between you and I? We both make a bracha before we eat an apple... why are you a Rebbe and I'm not?" To which the Rebbe responded, "the difference is that you make the bracha so that you can eat the apple; I eat the apple so that I can make the bracha."  

Holiness, my friends. Holiness.

I wish I could sit and talk about shoes for the rest of day, but I need to go turn my succulent, palatable, tantalizing, flavorsome, heavenly, saporous, mundane food into a holy Shabbat meal. So, I will get my feet out of my head and onto the ground.

Holiness is everywhere. Those who don't see it are those who refuse to see it.

Have a pleasurable and spiritual Shabbos.