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AN UNSETTLING STORY

By: L. Azar

“…we should reduce the time and energy we expend on materialistic pursuits and the amassment of more and more possessions.”

It's the feeling that crops up when the hour is late and your kids are not all home yet for the night.

It’s the feeling you experience when the important thing you want to tell your husband just won’t make the leap from the tip of your tongue, out.

It’s the feeling you get when you’ve got a whole list of errands to run, but instead chase after an elusive parking spot.

It’s the feeling of unsettledness – the niggling in your stomach and the alarm bells in your brain reminding you of unfinished business; the emotion that can claim your peace of mind and hundreds of hours of sleep.

To illustrate:

Once upon a time, my sister-in-law Jacqueline,* lived with her husband and
an adorable infant in a neat, little apartment. Her lease was up on May 31,
2017, and she had to be out of it by then. Having just given birth in April and with Passover and pidyon haben prep in between, Jacqueline’s apartment search was pretty lame and she never found another place. Fortunately, her landlord allowed her and her husband to extend their lease an additional month, which was a good thing because they managed to find something suitable in that time.

Should she worry about the fact that that the new apartment she’d found was first available from July 3rd leaving their family a three-day gap with no place to be? No, reasoned Jacqueline, because she planned to be a staff member at a camp in the Catskills then, and bring her family with her.

Jacqueline arranged for movers to transfer her furniture into storage. The move would take place on a Friday, and then they’d drive up to the mountains in their minivan. That was the plan.

The situation grew tricky when their van needed an emergency repair, rendering it unavailable for use on that slated Friday. Luckily, the camp arranged to rent Jacqueline a minivan in which she could bring her family up to the mountains. Great!

Friday dawned, and an exhausted Jacqueline, who’d spent the night alternating between packing and feeding the baby, watched as every bed and chair were swallowed up inside a giant moving truck. As soon as the truck reached storage, she received a phone call from the camp. They were soooo sorry, but there was a misunderstanding and they didn’t need her at the camp until after the weekend.

My sister-in-law stood in her bare apartment bewildered. She had no furniture, no food, and essentially, no place to call home. It was 3 PM, just a few hours short of Shabbat. Because there
was no car in the picture, she couldn’t make the one-hour drive to my in-laws. I have nowhere to go, nowhere to land, nowhere to settle! Jacqueline chanted to herself repeatedly.

At five-thirty, Jacqueline hopped into an Uber to transport her family and their camp luggage to Mom’s. Ignoring the cabby’s angry rants of “Why all this stuff for?!” and “Hurry it up, already!” she began to philosophize.

Are we supposed to feel settled in this world? she wondered. No. After all, this whole world is merely a stopover, until we reach the ultimate destination – the World to Come. So, in a way, every one of us is never settled completely. And if this world is temporary, we should reduce the time and energy we expend on materialistic pursuits and the amassment of more and more possessions.

A century ago, a traveler passing by Radin, Poland, hometown of the famed Chafetz Chaim, asked the venerated rabbi, “Where is all your furniture?”

The Chafetz Chaim answered the man’s question with a question of his own: “Where’s yours?”

“Mine? I’m merely passing through Radin. My furniture does not come with me on my travels.”

“I, too, am merely passing through Radin. My furniture does not come with me to the World to Come,” the gadol remarked. The Chafetz Chaim’s famous words were a lesson for generations – the same lesson Jacqueline ultimately learned from her experience.

Remember, we’re just traveling through!

*Name has been changed.