We are in the thick of High Holiday season! Rosh Hashanah is now behind us, and we are looking ahead to Yom Kippur from the Aseres Y’mei Teshuva – the Ten Days of Repentance. I thought a post inspired by an article I read on Aish.com about Yom Kippur would be appropriate for today’s Torah Tuesday.
The article brought a fascinating concept that I hadn’t heard before. It states that the Ten Days of Repentance parallel the Ten Commandments (today lines up with You Shall Not Kill), which means that Yom Kippur lines up with You Shall Not Covet.
Coveting goes beyond the idea of admiring something nice that someone else has. It actually means that a person who covets someone else’s car wants that car, and wants the owner of the car not to have it. Pretty intense, huh?
The author presents the following shocking statistic:
A fascinating psychological study recently done by researchers at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University proves the point. The following question was posed to a representative sampling of people: Would you rather earn 100,000 dollars when everyone around you is making $50,000 or would you rather make $200,000 when everyone around you makes $400 000? The study made clear that the question assumed that the cost of living and goods stays the same. Which option did almost all people choose? A rational person would choose the second option, where he makes more money but less than people around him. That way he will have twice as much to spend. In reality most people picked the first option. The most important consideration was simply being richer than other people!
This is really an abhorrent attitude! Would we really want to have more money than our neighbors that badly? What’s up with that?
Do Possessions Really Make Us Happy?
We are bombarded with advertisements, and even for those of us who don’t have television in our homes, we still see ads in various publications, and we see the clothing and possessions of our neighbors who are maybe a little more fashionable than us, or a little more well-to-do than we are. Well, new flash: There is always going to be someone who has more than we do.
I have to admit that when I’m able to cloth my baby in Baby Gap and Ralph Lauren (all hand-me-downs, mind you), I felt a little tingle of “ooo, look how well dressed my baby is!”
However, the pleasure that is derived from buying something wanes quickly after buying it. Yes, I love buying a new pair of shoes, or a new outfit, but after that first initial rush of pleasure, the item joins the ranks in my closet and I don’t get that fuzzy feeling anymore. I read or heard once (sorry, I don’t remember the source) that no matter the value of the new item purchased, whether it’s a new car or a new pack of mechanical pencils (yes, I do get pleasure from that), the thrill wears off at roughly the same rate.
Keeping it Real
What does this have to do with Yom Kippur? Well, YK is a day on which we deny ourselves many basic physical pleasures. No eating, drinking, hugging the husband, wearing leather and washing or applying lotion. Just focus on the spiritual, on what can really give us happiness in life: a connection with G-d. Really, when it comes down to it, all the physical pleasures in the world that we can enjoy pale in comparison to the ultimate pleasure of cultivating a meaningful relationship with the Creator of the world. I mean, that is kind of why we’re here and all.
So this Yom Kippur, even though I’m not going to be making it to synagogue to pray (my responsibilities as a mommy to Little Man trump the obligation to pray in a synagogue), I am going to take the opportunity to reflect on what is really the key to happiness in life.
Wishing everyone a meaningful fast, and a good and blessed year!