Daf Yomi Yevamos 104
Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin was a Hasidic rebbe who held court in grand style. His shul was a palace, his home was a mansion. He would ride in a fine horse-drawn carriage. His clothes were gorgeous and he would wear golden shoes. He demonstrated that life as a Hasid is regal.
One day, however, a Hasid found the rebbe’s golden shoes and discovered that inside the shoes there were rocks! Apparently, while the external suggested royal living, it was merely a façade for his deep humility before the Almighty. He had simply wanted to impress upon his Hasidim that this world – every facet of it – could and should be used in the service of G-d.
Rava taught: The law is that a sandal made by an elderly person for his honour (i.e. burial shrouds) may not be utilized for halitzah (the levirate marriage annulment).
Ravina said to Rabbi Ashi: Why should such a sandal be invalid? For it was not made for walking.
In Ethics of the Fathers, our Sages teach, “Everything the Almighty created was created only for His honour,” meaning that our mission is to reckon with every item in this world and figure out how to use it to serve G-d. Shoes were made for walking. Honouring yourself by making fancy shoes for the grave is simply vain.
Does that mean that you should only buy Rockport shoes, because they are the best for walking? Certainly not. Even when you wear shoes that are a little less comfortable, as long as you are striving to fulfill a higher purpose, you are acting appropriately. For example, you might buy a nice pair of uncomfortable shoes for a job interview. G-d wants you to work; He wants you to get the job. Therefore you have accomplished the Divine mission of these shoes by wearing them to the interview.
In the case of the Rizhiner Rebbe, he demonstrated how to use every mundane item of this world for G-d. Clearly, his “rock”-ports revealed that he wasn’t taking advantage of the wealth for his honour. It was solely for the sake of Heaven!
Every piece of physicality that you seek to utilize, ask yourself: Do I need this to serve G-d? Will it enhance or beautify my mitzvah performance? If you can answer positively, then proceed. If you’re going out to work to make money just to buy a bigger house, another yacht, another vacation home, then it’s self-serving and you have been distracted from your mission on earth.
You have royal blood! You deserve not just the good life, but the best life! The Almighty wants you to experience pleasure in this world – just as long as you are enjoying physicality and materialism as a vehicle to serving Heaven. May you merit the prosperity to glorify G-d and serve Him in the most beautiful manner possible!