It’s a Wonderful Life

Abstruse Goose hit the nail on the head again!

Abstruse Goose: May 3, 2012

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  1. There are complaints and there are complaints.
    Sometimes complaints lead to improvement. Complain how hot it is and someone might turn on the air conditioning. Complain about how slow the air conditioning is and someone might upgrade the unit.
    Unless you’re in a place that has no air conditioning or can’t afford an upgrade which means complaining is useless.
    We find in Chumash that our ancestors complained several times and not every time was it received in a negative sense. Sometimes God found it justified.
    There is a fine line between “The rich person is happy with his lot” and “Things could be better around here”

  2. micha says:

    Tangentially… When teaching for The Mussar Institute, Ben Zomah’s rhetorical Q&A comes up a lot. Which leads to the obvious question of how one can be both happy with their lot and yet not complacent? Always wanting the latest car might not be happiness or contentment, but the same is true of always wanting the next mitzvah opportunity, to understand the next page of gemara, etc? How does one find the balance? And if one needs balance, then how is someone who only has the contentment side richer than someone who has the balance between contentment and meaningful goals?

    I therefore would suggest that Ben Zoma’s notion of “chelqo” isn’t what I have now, but my entire cheileq in this world — from birth to death. Who is wealthy? One who is happy with the path Hashem laid out for him (and keeps on re-laying each time he steps off and needs a new one). If I were capable of that, I would be able to properly utilize what I have, and realize there is no need for what I don’t.

    I would blog this separately, but I hope to blog a letter to the editor that ends with this thought. For that matter, it might already be buried in the blog somewhere in one of the earlier posts. It’s faster to repeat than to search.

  3. micha says:

    Garnel, could be “cheileq in Torah”, but otherwise I personally wouldn’t assume Ben Zoma was speaking specifically of men nor of Jews. But either way, it would translate to, “Who is wealthy? Someone about to die or lose his mental capacity.” Because as long as one could learn, should they? And in which case, they couldn’t have reached their quota yet…

  4. guest says:

    The “answer” of how one can both be happy with his lot and never be complacent is really very simple and easy.

    Always be happy with your own lot. Never be satisfied with the situation OTHER people are in.

    I’ll never understand why so many people seem to not get this at all.

    • micha says:

      I shouldn’t strive to study more Torah? Or if someone is sick, they shouldn’t strive to be healthy? The poor shouldn’t strive to have the means to but food, shelter and clothing?

      There is plenty of positive in striving for oneself.

    • My understanding was that this was covered by “Lo tachmod”

      • micha says:

        Returning again to my extremis example of Torah study. Lo sachmod doesn’t apply, because it’s not a zero sum game — my learning more doesn’t hurt anyone else’s knowledge. And in fact, qin’as soferim tarbeh chokhmah!

        And yet, complacency in my own learning is a bad thing. I shouldn’t be content with what I currently have.

        I would argue the same thing about resources. The more one tries to fulfill “bekhol me’odekha”, the easier it is to argue that even complacency in one’s financial situation isn’t a good thing. If you’re going to kill 40 hours a week getting paid anyway, why not have more money for more tzedaqah, more classes, finer gifts to others, and a nicer esrog? (40 hours a week — halevai it were only 40!)

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