A fancy house, a cool car, an exciting vacation, pleasurable intimacy, designer clothes, the best doctors and hospitals, power, information, and popularity.
Think about it: How much time, money, and effort do you spend thinking, dreaming, and planning ways to achieve the above list? How much do you deeply desire them?
If you claim not much at all, congratulations! You are in the small minority.
Listen to the radio or everyday social conversations. Look at advertising campaigns on multiple
media platforms. These and similar enticements take up an excessive amount of our time and
But should they? And while we may desire these things, are they even what we truly want?
Isn’t it likely that we focus on a house when we want a home, pleasure when we want love, and
information when we want wisdom?
You get the idea.
In this week’s Torah portion, G-d tells us, “You shall be holy.” A holy person does not focus on
the physical and temporal desires described above. As the great Jewish philosopher, Kabbalist,
and legal expert, Nachmanides, explains, this is so even if the desire is technically legal, moral,
So why do we focus on these things? The Kabbalists explain that our soul longs for meaning and
fulfillment, causing an ache and yearning inside us. Our bodies convince us that we can satisfy
them with physical pleasures. But we can’t. Our soul craves spiritual nutrition, and we try to
appease it with “junk food” made up of excessive materialism.
So does that mean that we should abstain from all physical desires? Instead, should we focus on
love, building a home, inner peace and security, and fulfillment?
The shocking answer is no. You do not have to give up pleasure, but you should not focus on the
more enlightened list, either.
Don’t focus on it because to do so is a waste of time; one can only achieve these subliminal
goals by not focusing on them.
Spiritual gifts are always available, but the only way to receive them is by making oneself a
worthy receptacle for G-d’s blessing. One should not focus on love but on being someone people
will love. One’s singular effort should be to become the kindest, most sensitive, holiest person
possible. Do so, and the items on list two miraculously follow.
And then the real magic kicks in. While living a holy life does not guarantee a fancy home or an
exotic vacation, it does ensure a more pleasurable life. Nothing is more enjoyable than a loving
home and a loving relationship, and nothing more pleasing than living a life of meaning.
So don’t waste your time with material desires, but don’t fixate on the spiritual list either. The
holier of a life you live, the closer you will come to having it all.
Rabbi Yitzchok Oratz is the Rabbi and Director of the Monmouth Torah Links community. Shortly after receiving his semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Bais Medrash Govoha, the famed Lakewood Yeshiva, Rabbi Oratz, along with his wife Toby and family, moved to Marlboro, NJ where they co-founded the MTL community in 2001. Aside for his “Devar on the Par” that he writes for MTL, his writings have also been published on Aish, Times of Israel, Seforim Blog, Hakira, and in various Rabbinic journals. Rabbi Oratz looks forward to continuing teaching Torah in a way that is timely and timeless, and sharing meaningful Jewish experiences with the amazing MTL community.