Spiritual Materialism

An Article by Ohad Pele, October 2019

One thing I really like about the Kabbalistic tradition I came from is that it has a lot of humour. I like it so much that it became one of my ways to assess if I like the teachings of some great teacher.

I am not looking only for the depth but also for the humour. Teachers without a healthy humour seem to me as if they just take themselves too seriously.

I was once asked: “If you were to add an 11th commandment to the ten biblical ones, what would you add?” 
And I answered: “You shalt not take yourself too seriously!”
 

Here is an old Jewish joke that I love, about spiritual materialism:

Hershalle was a very poor man and he could not afford to buy a pot, so he could cook for himself. One Friday morning he knocks on his rich neighbour’s door and asks to lend him a pot so he can cook a Shabbat meal for himself. The rich neighbour made Hershalle swear he will bring the pot back right after the weekend and then, unwillingly, lent him a simple tin pot.

After the Shabbat ended Hershalle knocks again on his neighbour’s door in order to give him the pot back. But he doesn’t just give back the pot, he gives it with a little other tin pot on its side. Same as the big one, just smaller.

“What is that?”, asks the neighbour in surprise.

“Well” said Hershalle, “looks like the pot you gave me was pregnant, and during Saturday night it gave birth to this little one… so I thought it would be only right to give you the child-pot along with his mother.”

Surprised and amused the rich neighbour accepted the mother pot with its child.

In the next week the same thing happened again. Hershalle borrowed a pot for Shabbat. This time he was given a copper pot, but the same thing happened:  After the weekend he brought it back alongside a child copper pot that was born during the weekend. The rich neighbour was very happy.

At the third week, when Hershalle knocked on his neighbour’s door, the rich neighbour went in and came out with a super expensive golden pot, handed it smilingly to Hershalle and blessed him with a Shabbat Shalom

The weekend had passed, but Hershalle did not show up with the golden pot. The neighbour got worried. He waited and waited until he couldn’t wait anymore. In his upset he rushed to Hershalle’s cabin and knocked on his door nervously.  Hershalle opened the door and the rich man yelled at him: “Where is my golden pot? You little thief?”

“Oh… I am so sorry to tell you”, answered Hershalle with a gloomy look on his face. “Your pot… well… on Shabbat night it died.”

Spiritual Materialism is not when you charge money for your services, but when you choose to believe in spirituality only when it supports your materialistic agenda. 

When his assets were multiplying, the rich man chose to believe that there is life in objects (a shamanic way of understanding reality). But when it went the other way, he couldn’t believe that a pot can die. In my understanding this is when we can test ourselves: When things go opposite to our wishes, do we accept it as a mystery that has its own sense beyond our limited understanding and surrender to the great mystery of life, or do we feel cheated, lonely and fearful in a meaningless materialistic universe?

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