simple riches

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-simpletreeWho is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot.  --Avot 4:1

Ben Zoma really hit the nail on the head when he gave us this nugget of wisdom.  So often, people base their happiness on what they have or don't have.  Marriages, business relationships, and lives are destroyed by the constant nagging of wanting.  Simplicity is intricately tied to the middah of gratitude.  In having gratitude about what we have, we can live simpler lives and feel content with what we do have.

not settling for less

So how does one go about being satisfied with one's lot?  Does this negate any efforts we should make in life toward improvement? Should we settle for less?

I think the thrust of what Ben Zoma is hinting at is not passivity or caving in to one's circumstances.  Rather, I believe that he is hinting at our ability to be settled when we are in a particular place in life.  If we are a student, we are satisfied with meager earnings and our study load.  We don't look to have the home or car that is out of reach, for the finances just won't support it. We are contented knowing that we will be in a better place when we are finished with our hard labor.   When we are parents with small children, we don't dream about luxury vacations in chalets and wine tasting in the country. We look to the moments of raising our children and the joy they bring in their discovery and in their growth.  When we are in a financial bind, we don't imagine spending money on items that will tax our budget. We simply weather the period of minimal spending so that we can enjoy stability and be debt-free.

I think Ben Zoma is encouraging us to be present in our moments and realistic about what we have. It is simply assessing what we have and having gratitude. When we employ gratitude in our lives, simplicity follows somewhat effortlessly.  We find that it dims our cravings and our unrealistic expectations.  We take joy in the gifts we have, and realize that the excess and the desire for more can actually hold us back in our present state.  This type of living is not settling for less: rather, it is living in the abundance of what we have and soaking it all in with a grateful spirit.  Simplicity is a middah that slows us down, causes us to enjoy the gifts of today, and look to tomorrow with temperance and wisdom.  Less is truly more.

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