Just A HalfHave you ever lost socks in the wash? It’s bad enough to lose a pair, but losing a single sock really frustrates me. You search in vain for its match and are left holding a useless sock. My son coined his own term for the single socks in his drawer. “Mommy,” he says, “I have a lonely sock.”
When I heard about his lonely socks I thought it is an apt metaphor for life. Are you a lonely sock?
What is a sock if not a covering for feet and while I can use mismatched socks to dress my feet I wouldn’t want it known in public. I would cover it up in shame and hate to be found out.
Life, as we know it, is but a half of its full magnitude. The whole of the world was created by G-d so it could be used to serve Him (Ethics of our Fathers 6: 11.) He created books so we could study Torah. He created food so we could feed the hungry. He created money so that we could give to charity. He created cars so we could drive those in need. He created wine so we could chant Kiddush (benediction) on Shabbat (See Zohar III 11b.).
This is the other half. The deeper half. The purposeful half. But I often take sole ownership of my possessions and treat them as if their purpose is merely to satisfy me. In fact, I often view life as if I am here for my benefit and enjoyment. In other words, I make use of one half or dimension of what G-d has given me, and discard the other deeper half.
Does it function smoothly? Yes and so does a single sock function as a cover for a single leg. But if the sock isn’t matched up with its pair, if my socks are mismatched, I hope never to be found out. Life too functions smoothly when I don’t use it to serve G-d, but is it something to be proud of? It’s a lonely sock, and lonely socks are shameful.
Not Even HalfActually, living life just to serve myself isn’t just missing out on half of life’s equation. It’s worse, it’s a hollow lie. Life that serves only me and not the purpose for which G-d made me, is a shell of its true self.
I have been using the metaphor of a lonely sock, but perhaps a better metaphor is that of a man who claims to be married but is not. He walks around all day claiming to be a husband, but when challenged he can’t produce a wife. Can he function as a complete human being? Well he is certainly human, he is alive, he is a male, he is in possession of his faculties, but he is not a husband. You can’t be a husband if you don’t have a wife.
The same is true of a G-dless life. Are we breathing and living? Are we profiting and enjoying? Are we surrounded by family and friends? The answers might all be yes. But are we fulfilling the purpose of life? No. You can’t live purposefully if you don’t embrace purpose.
If my food is just for me and isn’t a sacrifice for G-d, it is a hollow version of its true self. A lonely sock. A wifeless husband. If my library is just for show and I don’t sit down to study, it is a shell of its true self. A lonely sock. A wifeless husband. If my home is just for family and doesn’t have a Mezuzah on the door, a charity box on the wall and a welcoming space for the needy, it is a hollow version of its true self. A lonely sock. A wifeless husband.
The Lonely FatherWe are at the end of the month of Av, the month in which both our Temples were destroyed. The first by the Babylonians and the second by Rome. Many have wondered why Jewish history attributed the name Av, father, to this month when it is the month of our enemies’ triumph over our father.
It has been suggested that Av in this context, doesn’t mean father, but first. (Sefer Marmarim Eter p. 229 based on Rashi’s commentary to Exodus 23: 15.) For example, the Hebrew word for spring is Aviv, a word that connotes the beginning or the first of the ripening season.
Thus the name of this month offers a critical challenge. Who is firstborn, Jacob or Esau? In the beginning it appeared that Esau was firstborn, only later did it emerge that Jacob was the primary son. This plays out in the month of Av. At first blush, when we focus only on what occurred during the first nine days of the month, it appears that Rome and Babylon are the primary forces in the world. Based on that, it makes sense to abandon G-d and embrace the spirit and culture of Rome. Yet, as the month progresses we encounter the fifteenth of Av, the happiest day in the Jewish calendar. We discover that Rome’s might is temporal and temporary and their ascendance over G-d is just an illusion.
In our own lives this means that abandoning G-d for a Roman way of life is ultimately the wrong approach. In the second half of the month we remember that despite appearances, Rome was never the right choice. Life might look like a venue for my own enjoyment. My blessings might appear to be geared to me alone. But ultimately we realize, that this is a hollow way to live. It is a lonely sock. Merely a half of life’s true meaning, if that.
The Lonely SteakThis is why G-d instructed that a portion of all meat consumed by Jews in the desert be designated as a sacrifice to G-d. In fact, the animal was first designated an offering to G-d and only then was a portion sectioned off and given to the Jew to eat. (Deuteronomy 12: 20-21. See Rashi’s commentary to verse 21.)
Every time they sat down to a dinner of steak or beef they were reminded that the purpose of their endeavor wasn’t just to fill their tummies, but to serve G-d. Considering that serving G-d consumes a lot of energy, it was necessary to eat and replenish. But they weren’t eating for themselves. They were offering to G-d. Deriving each morsel of meat from an offering reminded them that life isn’t about self, it is about something higher and deeper. Everything that G-d made, He made for His glory.
Today we are permitted meat without the sacrificial aspect, but it is no less incumbent on us to remember that we are eating for G-d, living for G-d, breathing for G-d and functioning for G-d. It is much more difficult to remember this without the helpful reminder of the offering, but if it is asked of us, we are capable. G-d does not ask, what we cannot fulfill. So let us rise to the challenge and stop living like a lonely sock. Let us live for G-d.