There is a well-known parable that does the rounds amongst Jewish philosophers and it goes like this… There was once a man, to be politically correct, let’s call him Jacob the Jew. (These days, everyone is jacobthejew!) Jacob was a happily married man and father of a large Jewish family and as with most Jewish fathers; Jacob struggled to keep up with his growing family’s needs.
One day, he was offered an opportunity to travel to a faraway land where rumour had it that the streets were paved with diamonds and anyone was free to pick them up. He couldn’t believe his good luck when soon after he got wind of this, a boat leaving announced its imminent departure for the diamond encrusted shores. Jacob decided that as this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, he would make the voyage and collect enough stones to bring home to insure he became a wealthy man.
Despite the fact that he arrived dizzy with exhaustion, he fell to the ground and began grabbing bags and filling them with diamonds. But as his weeklong trip unfolded into several months, he slowly forgot his mission and was persuaded to switch to collecting onions which was the currency of choice on the island. After a substantial amount of time on the island, the boat
returned to pick up the passengers it had dropped there several months before. Jacob bade farewell to his new acquaintances, delighted with his newfound wealth. He boarded the boat, schlepping his three enormous sacks of onions; his guarantee for life as a wealthy man. s the sun blazed across the harbour, he face lit up as he caught sight of his wife and children who stood waiting, elated that their father and husband was finally returning home. They knew he would be laden with diamonds and that they would no longer struggle to pay for their growing needs. As Jacob saw them standing on the docks, he began to jump up and down, ecstatic that he was going to finally see them after nearly a year away. He grabbed his sacks of onions and ran towards them with a palpable euphoria. As he got closer, the pungent smell of the rotten onions permeated the air. His wife looked at him, bewildered, “Jacob, how could diamonds smell that bad? What is in your sacks’?” As he looked at her, Jacob realised the unforgivable mistake he had made and broke down, weeping.
This parable is one that holds great significance for all of us. Often we find ourselves in situations where we bypass spiritual opportunities and turn away from acquiring the diamonds destined for our eternal bank accounts. Instead we quickly get distracted by the intoxicating delights of this world, not realising before it’s too late, and the ship has set sail for eternal
Every Shabbos, we are reminded of all that is truly valuable in timeless treasures. We are encouraged to stop and take cognisance of our spiritual destinies and how we can best fulfil them. Shabbos offers us the opportunity to engage without distraction in meaningful conversations with our families and friends and we are presented with the chance to plug into our relationship with G-d, undisturbed by the constant “noise” that bombards us with every flashing red light, notification, buzz and beep.
Shabbos is indeed a day of sobriety as it put things into perspective with piercing clarity, lighting the way forward for how life should be lived. How blessed we are that in a world so chaotic with distractions, we have a day that invites us to embrace our spiritual reality with those we love as we cherish the equilibrium it restores within us.
Shabbos has been my favourite day for the better part of my life and to be honest the day that holds all my favourite memories. They are not captured on camera or iphone, but rather stored with a tender nostalgia in the inner recesses of my soul. How blessed to have been born into a life with a weekly reminder that summonses us to celebrate our spiritual sobriety.