Ephemeral Mentality

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Coffee Cup
03 Oct 2017

Gourmet Coffee

A “Push Present” is a gift a husband gives to his wife to mark the occasion of her giving birth to their child. After our most recent child was born my wife reversed the trend and surprised me with a gift (during her difficult pregnancy she rightfully “pushed” all other responsibilities on me.) She purchased a state of the art coffee grinder, an air tight fresh coffee container, and  a large bag of beans from a gourmet coffee brand (they were roasted the day before they arrived. Oh the aroma!) After expressing my appreciation, I jokingly told her that she is getting me too comfortable with this world and making it more difficult to leave after 120 years. Don’t get me wrong. I did not return the gifts, but there’s always truth behind a joke. It took a Gemara about the mitzvah of Succah to put my mind at ease with my newly refined taste for coffee.

“Fit” To Be Temporary

On Succos, we are told to leave our permanent dwelling and dwell in a temporary one. One of the reasons offered is to contemplate our ephemeral existence here on earth. Really? Who are we fooling? Will seven days of living outdoors really shift our perspective to prefer our huts over our homes?

The truth is that our huts could look almost as permanent as our homes! The Gemara (Succah 2a) says that one could even use iron walls for a Succah as long the Succah structure is under 20 amos (approximately 30 feet) in height. In a nutshell, the Gemara explains that a structure under 20 amos is “fit” to be temporary even if it’s materials are permanent.

Ephemeral Mentality

Nobody ever said that we must forever abandon our luxuries to live in huts. For seven days we must live in a structure that is “fit” to be temporary even while it is one of physical permanence. In other words, as we enter our Succah, we develop an ephemeral mentality, even while we are fully engaged in this world. The mitzvah is not to give up our nice clothing or our comfortable car for an austere lifestyle. The mitzvah is to “give up” living with our permanent mentality and enter into an ephemeral one.

If you live a comfortable life or even a luxurious life ask yourself the following: Am I emotionally and mentally ready to live without it? How attached am I to my belongings? Do I define myself by my possessions or by my likes and dislikes of the material world?

Believe it or not, there are children from extremely wealthy families that are not spoiled. They are simple, humble, and understand their place in this world. Granted the challenge to develop an ephemeral mentality becomes harder with each material acquisition; however, the Succah itself teaches us that it’s possible. We don’t need to change our lifestyles. We need to change the context in which we live that lifestyle.

Gourmet Coffee in Context

It’s 5:15am as I squeeze down on my handheld espresso maker. I can’t wait to take a sip. Previously, I only looked forward to the pleasure of drinking my morning coffee. Now, I still savor the pleasure, but I also look forward to the boost it provides for my Torah learning. If I knew I could get closer to Hashem without it, I would give it up in a flash. The coffee is not me. I enjoy it in the context of a more meaningful life. It’s even taken on new meaning! I’ve become the community coffee roaster. Need a good cup of coffee, shmooze, or dvar Torah? Come to The Rothee Bean & Torah Leaf (Californians know what I’m talking about.)

Taste of Eternity

Succos is the time to take a good look at what we enjoy in this world. Are we willing to give that up for a connection to our Creator? If we are then we are living an ephemeral reality. A reality where all that we do becomes eternal. Now we are “fit” for this world- go out and enjoy it!

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.