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ArticlesAppreciating Our Wealth (Part III)
by Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier - TheShmuz.com
My grandmother grew up in
We aren’t any different than they were. They walked, ate, slept, and breathed as we do. They weren’t born on a different planet, and they didn’t live a thousand years ago. Yet their life was so different from ours that it is difficult for us to even imagine ourselves in that setting.
I had a
While it may sound like ancient history to us, it wasn’t that long ago that people used an outhouse. In the freezing cold of winter they would don a coat, go out to the back, and there find a bare hut. This is how they lived. There was no such thing as cars and planes and buses. If you had somewhere to go you got into a horse drawn wagon and bumped along a stone road for hours till your insides wanted to come out. There was no such thing as roads and highways. Even smooth walls were something that was unheard of.
Heat was a thing for the rich. My father had a friend who grew up in a cold part of
We also enjoy material possessions that two generations ago were unimaginable. If you walk down an aisle in Wal-Mart, everything you see is available to be had. In whatever color, shape and texture you like, it is there for us to buy. And for the most part, we have money to buy it with.
To give you an illustration, I gave a talk on this topic and after the lecture a woman came over to tell me an incident. She was friendly with a new immigrant-- a Russian woman. She took her adopted friend on their first outing to a large supermarket. When this Russian immigrant walked into the produce section and saw the abundance and plenty on display, she was so overcome with emotion that she fainted. In all of her years she had never seen so much food, so readily available. During the Communist regime it was considered a regular part of the day to wait for hours on line for food. Now, if we are held up for ten minutes at the checkout counter we are already looking for a new grocery store.
Let me show you another example: If you own a house built before W.W.II, you will probably notice that no matter how large it is there never seems to be enough closet space. The home might have big rooms, plenty of bedrooms and lots of living space, but tiny, undersized closets. That is because the builders in those times built homes for the people who lived then. No one then would dream that we would own the amount of clothing that we do. I spoke to a woman who grew up in the 1930’s, and she told me she had two dresses: one for weekdays and one for the Sabbath. She wasn’t poor; she came from a typical home. That was considered normal.
Now we have racks and racks of clothing: suits, shirts, slacks, sweaters, winter coats, summer jackets, light fall coats, ties, belts, pocket books, and matching accessories. Not to mention shoes. My mentor, Rabbi A. H. Lebowitz grew up in
Do we know of anyone today who doesn’t own a number of pairs of shoes? In black, and blue, and brown; ones for casual wear, ones for dress, ones for running, others for basketball, still others for bowling. Do you play golf? Of course only an entirely separate wardrobe is fitting. And, heaven forefend to play tennis in basketball shoes!
If we were to describe our wealth to people of a different generation, I don’t think they would believe us. Kings in prior times didn’t enjoy the luxuries that we do. If you look at pictures of King George, monarch of
The reality is that we are wealthy beyond belief. We enjoy comforts and abundance that are historically unprecedented. And we aren’t speaking about the captains of industry or the extremely affluent. The average taxpaying citizens of today live in opulence and splendor that previous generations couldn’t even dream about.
For centuries, all that man has desired is freedom from tyranny, and a homeland where he enjoys liberty and rights. Armies went to war for this, entire generations sacrificed all that they had for this, and we now have it. We are there. We have finally arrived; living in a free society, with equal rights, and almost unlimited opportunity.
But to enjoy our great wealth we need to stop and appreciate it. When a person does that they recognize how blessed their life is, how fortunate they are to be living in today’s times, and much they have to thank their Creator.
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