Rick drove up to the shul one Tuesday morning in a shiny new Lamborghini.
“Rabbi, do you like my new baby?” I had to admit, it was a beauty.
“What brings you here to shul on a Tuesday morning, Rick?” I asked.
“Well, you know my kid’s barmitzvah’s coming up,” he replied, “I’ve decided to give him my tefillin that I got from my grandpa olov hasholom. I’d like to buy a new set for myself.”
“Great!” I responded, “Mazaltov on the barmitzvah. In terms of the tefillin, they start at around $300 for a basic pair and then go up as high as $2000. Let me tell you a little about the difference between different qualities of tefillin.”
“Oh no, rabbi,” he quickly stopped me, “Just give me whatever’s cheapest. It’s really all the same to me.”
The Torah states, “In sukkos shall you dwell seven days.” Generally, people eat at least two meals a day. Therefore, concludes Rabbi Eliezer, one is obligated to consume a total of fourteen meals in the sukkah.
King Agripas’s chief operations officer challenged Rabbi Eliezer. “What about someone like me, who only eats one meal a day, can I be exempt with one meal?”
Rabbi Eliezer responded, “Every day you munch on loads of dessert delicacies for your own enjoyment. And now, you can’t manage one more delicacy to honour your Creator?”
While some of us are scrupulous to avoid even a glass of water outside the sukkah, most of us will do whatever we can to avoid needing a sukkah during the festival. We’ll nibble a little here, we’ll snack a little there. We’ll be ever so careful not to have enough food at any given time to constitute a meal, thereby leading to the sukkah obligation. If we have small enough amounts, we can avoid the sukkah hassle. After all, it’s too cold. Or it’s too hot. Or it’s a shlep, etc, etc.
Says Rabbi Eliezer: You would spoil yourself for your own enjoyment! Now that you have to do something for G-d, you’re not prepared to partake of the same pleasurable foods? Anything to avoid giving G-d some pleasure?!?
Sadly, this attitude is not only apparent on Sukkot. I am always perplexed by people who build the most beautiful homes, sparing no expense. But when it comes to putting up the mezuzos, they’ll start negotiating with me about how many doorways really need a mezuzah and when they find they need quite a few, they’ll ask for the cheapest scrolls available. It makes no sense, says Rabbi Eliezer. If you’re willing to splurge on yourself, then you must have at least the same standard for G-d!
Next time you go to do something for the Almighty, ask yourself, ‘am I doing this with the same enthusiasm, the same devotion, the same swank, that I would expend on my own needs and wants?’ Admit it, with everything G-d has done for you in your life, doesn’t He deserve a little generosity in return?