I was flipping through one of those women's magazines that no one ever admits to reading when an ad caught my eye.
It was an ad for jewelry -- a special kind that comes in many colors and styles, rings and bracelets glistening brightly from the pages. Diamonds scattered over them, these rings were in the vivid colors of lime, orange and cobalt blue. The bracelets and bangles also came in vibrant colors and varied styles. The rings were stackable and interchangeable, the bracelets mix and match. Chalk up another success for Madison Avenue. I was hooked.
I just had to have (at least) one of those rings. It didn't matter that I didn't need any jewelry (who ever needs jewelry?) and it didn't matter that we couldn't afford it.
SEDUCED BY GLITTER
I had to have that ring.
Sometimes our drive for material things is almost palpable, experienced in an intensity comparable to our most basic physical urges.
I was completely distracted by the overwhelming need for this piece of glitter.
Glitter has always been attractive. Our tradition teaches us that an angel had to move Moses' hand away from sparkling royal jewels to hot coals so as not to anger Pharaoh.
Our forefather, Jacob, was chagrined that he had no jewelry to present to Rachel his future wife, having been robbed along the way.
Even our sages recognize the desire for beautiful ornaments. It is a commandment on the three pilgrimage festivals for a man to buy his wife a new piece of clothing or jewelry
PASSION FOR POSSESSIONS
So there I was, in the throes of passion for yet another material possession, once again deluding myself that when I got this ring I'd never want another material thing again -- a very unsuccessful delusion since the whole idea of this type of jewelry was that you keep adding different colored bands.
But how many times have you said to yourself, "As soon as I get that –- fill in the blank -– black skirt, white blouse, taupe shoes, gold necklace ... I'll never need another thing"?
I couldn't wait. I started plotting when to get to the jewelry store, located in a particularly inconvenient spot. I decided that I'd go after my Wednesday morning class, calming myself down with the idea of a plan.
MATERIAL VS. SPIRITUAL DESIRES
But as we say: "man plans and God laughs." The class I was teaching immediately preceding my shopping expedition involved the death of our patriarch, Abraham. The Torah says that Abraham died satisfied, and one of the commentators explains this was because he had no material desires.
Only someone whose goals are totally spiritual could die satisfied.
Since it says in the Talmud that "no man dies with half his desires satisfied," only someone whose goals are totally spiritual could die satisfied. Only someone who is focused on the essence of life and sees the physical world as a tool to help serve the Almighty will die satisfied.
I made the point. I belabored the point. And I looked at myself. How could I in good conscience go buy that ring now? I know I always learn from teaching, and I know who this lesson was really directed at.
The lesson achieved its goal, I accepted the implied criticism and I crumpled up the advertisement.
I am grateful for the opportunity to teach and learn and hope that I will always grow from my Torah classes. The magazine and the ad are now inaccessible, consigned to the trash heap... but if anybody wants to buy me a present, I'm sure I could find the name...