Minute #574: High Ledge

The Chofetz Chaim was a spiritual giant who was able to keep his life in perspective and achieve happiness. He told a parable that enabled him to deal with material wealth in a way that controlled his desire for comfort and riches (which is common to the human condition) and prevented desire from spoiling his happiness.

There was once a very wealthy man who lived a hedonistic lifestyle, in which he satisfied every whim. He ate rich foods and drank expensive wines. He indulged in every available pleasure. He denied himself nothing. The overload of pleasure went to his head and he had delusions of grandeur and plotted to rebel against the king.

When his treasonous plots were uncovered, he was taken to a high tower and made to stand on a narrow ledge. He was given all the pleasures to which he had become accustomed, but was restricted to life on the ledge in constant fear of falling to his death. Of course, he couldn’t enjoy the abundance he had; he would have preferred a simple life of poverty back on the ground. He realized that the fear of losing his life and wealth blocked his ability to enjoy the world’s pleasures.

So it is with those who attain wealth but never know if one day they will suddenly lose it. Shlomo Hamelech says: “There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches hoarded by their owner to his misfortune. But those riches perish in a bad venture” (Kohelet 5:12).

Rich and poor alike seek wealth, however, even when attained it doesn’t satisfy. There’s nothing better than a life of moderation. It’s free of fear of falling from a high place.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

Evil will always try first and foremost to overcome man by making him prideful, for nothing is more fundamentally destructive of man’s spiritual life than pride. This is part of what King Solomon meant when he said, “Pride comes before the fall:” a man’s pride is what precipitates the fall of the soul into the dark prison of materialism. (Rabbi Aharon Feldman, The Juggler and the King, p. 37)