12 Cheshvan 5782 / Monday, October 18, 2021 | Torah Reading: Vayeira
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Unnecessary Necessities    

Unnecessary Necessities

Gadgets are great, but there is a downside to them: they make us think that we just can’t live without them. In an honest look at ourselves, do we really need all of them?


I’m thinking about expanding my horizons and recording a rap re-mix. It would go something like this: Laundry, and Dishes. Laundry, and Dishes. Laundry, Laundry, Laundry, Laundry…Dishes, Dishes, Dishes.

It’s catchy, no?
How did I come up with such a brilliant tune? I realized that every time I speak with my sister and she asks me what I’m doing, I give her the same generic answer: laundry and dishes. Maybe I should say “nothing” just once, to confuse her. Then she would most likely hang up because she might think she dialed the wrong number…
Today was my birthday, so to treat myself, I decided to play “Slave for a Day”. I did a major post-Shabbat cleaning job- moving all the couches, vacuuming under the rugs, changing all the bed sheets- you know, the usual slave stuff. Half the time the baby was pressing the cord recoil button on the vacuum cleaner, and the other half of the time the circuit would overload when I turned the vacuum cleaner back on. Needless to say, what should have been a half-hour job turned into a one-hour job. And that was just the beginning of my fun-filled birthday extravaganza.
As I was holding the baby and vacuuming, I started reminiscing about my housekeeper back in Miami. Oh, my beloved Lisa, how I loved her so… She was my knight in shining armor, ready to do dishes when the mountain just grew too high. I had her once a week, and it was worth every penny. At least, until she left the house. About five minutes later, the house would magically revert back to its pre-Lisa state, just like Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. Poof! Clean House Fantasy gone.
In my mind, she was nonetheless a necessity, even if it looked like she hadn’t even been there.
The other day I had a conversation with a friend, and I mentioned to her that she should think about getting rid of the live-in nanny since she’s always complaining about her. “I could never do that!” she exclaimed in horror, as if I were asking her to cut off her right arm. “What’s the big deal,” I thought. She only has two kids, they’re both in school full time, and she doesn’t work. What does she need a live-in for?
It’s easy for me to say that now, but back in Miami, I wouldn’t have even asked such a question. I still would have viewed it as a luxury, but nonetheless, a necessary one. These types of necessities can save a woman’s sanity…
I also used to have this recurring fantasy that one day I would have TWO dishwashers. Today I have NONE. You know what? It feels like I was working just as hard even with my one dishwasher. I had to pre-wash everything, so what time was I really saving?
These days we’re increasingly bombarded with improvements and upgrades to all of our modern necessities like our phones, computers, cars, even appliances. It’s no longer acceptable to own a 1990’s-style phone that needs you to press each key eight times in order to text! (Which is what I have, fyi.) Even books are becoming obsolete- now you have ipads and kindles, which allow you to read anything you want, any time. Even washing machines have smart settings like load sensors, which automatically adjust the water level.
Now these things are great, but there is a downside to them: they make us think that we just can’t live without them. Life has become so convenient, so instant, that any slight glitch in the system throws us completely out of whack. “What?? My espresso machine is broken? I’m going to have to drink regular instant coffee today? Oy, vey!”
Among the many realizations I have had while living in Israel, this is a major one: we just don’t need more than what we need.
So what’s the big deal with a little luxury, you ask? Well, I think it actually takes people away from G-d. They become so focused on working for material comforts that they lose sight of the entire purpose of their lives.
It’s enough that people have to work so hard to pay for their homes and cars- which I can safely say are probably more than what they can realistically afford. And now to throw in a lifestyle that’s drowning in unnecessary necessities? It’s like we’re drowning in quicksand. Maybe Apple should patent it and call it iQuicksand.
How can we fix this disconnection from G-d? One: disconnect from all of the luxuries; streamline and simplify your life. Two: start focusing on your spiritual pursuits, on developing your soul, who could care less about material luxuries. In fact, your soul despises such things.
Incidentally, I had an Android for a few days. You know what happened? I found myself checking my gmail account 50 times a day and going online for no apparent reason. I was addicted to it, and I could understand how people think that being connected to the outside world is necessary. The truth is, though, the only important connection is the one you have with G-d.
And that’s something that’s truly a necessity.

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