Daf Yomi Nedarim 56
The TV reporter was interviewing new olim (immigrants) to Israel.
“What would you say was the biggest cultural leap you made in making aliyah?” she asked.
“The white room,” one lady responded.
“The white room?” asked the reporter, a little puzzled.
“Yes,” when we lived in America we had this room at the front of the house that nobody was ever allowed to enter. It had plush white carpet. It housed an antique baby grand. And in the room was this gorgeous white suede and satin couch that nobody ever sat on. The entire room was there just for show. Now, every time I walk into our comfortable, livable five room apartment in Jerusalem, I look back and ask myself what was I thinking?”
Mishnah: One who vows to abstain from a sofa may still utilize a ‘dargash,’ according to Rabbi Meir. But the Sages maintain that a ‘dargash’ is included in the category of sofa.
Gemara: What is a ‘dargash’?
Ulla taught: It is a good-luck sofa.
Tosfos explains: It is a sofa made for kavod (honour) and mazal (good luck) that nobody sits upon.
Hashem gave us material goods to utilize for His service. Anything material that serves no purpose is wasteful. Our forefather Yaakov crossed back over the river, after he had taken his family across, because he had forgotten some small jugs. Our Sages explain that no material possession of his was superfluous – if he owned it, he needed it. And so it was worth going back for.
This material world was not given to us to behold for kavod and mazal; there is no purpose in amassing material wealth and possessions if you can’t use them. As a famous country adage goes, “I ain’t never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch” – there’s no taking it to the grave!
What’s more, not only must your possessions be utilizable for yourself; but as Ethics of the Fathers teaches, you must strive to achieve the attitude of “what’s mine is yours.” A sofa that nobody can sit upon is like a piece of steak that is cooked so perfectly that you won’t let anyone eat it, lest they spoil its beauty!
When we first got married, the Rabbanit conveyed to me what her mother taught her, “What’s mine is yours. You should share everything in this world. There are just three things that you don’t share: your car, your toothbrush, and your spouse!” While I agreed with the latter two, it took some time to convince her that our car didn’t belong solely to us.
“Our car belongs to Hashem,” I said, “we are mere guardians; stewards that direct its course.” Thank G-d, The Rabbanit agreed and today we proudly share ‘our’ material possessions to the best of our ability, including the car. (Our Honda we’ve already given to the assistant rabbi, and as I publish this, I anticipate the phone starting to ring off the hook for the Audi . . . !)
Don’t get stressed over material possessions. The Almighty wants you to enjoy this physical world and utilize it in His service. The two markers of misuse are amassing wealth for kavod and being so possessive of your materialism that you refuse to share it with others. May you be blessed with abundant parnassah to enjoy the Borei Olam (Creator)’s bounty, never going overboard and always sharing with all!