A Kabbalah Metaphor For Life – What Real Riches Truly Are

Often we are so engrossed in life that we forget what real riches are in life

Freely transcribed from the video:

Shalom friends, this is one of the most inspiring stories I heard from my wife before we got married, and it goes like this.

There was once a couple that heard about a land full of riches. Anyone that went there would easily make tons of money. So the wife told her husband he should go to there for a while and then bring back a fortune.

Because, why not?

So the husband set sail on his boat and after a long voyage, he arrived at the famed place. Much to his shock, the island was full of money and precious stones. There were rivers of sapphire, and trees made of emerald, the floors were paved with ruby and diamonds rained from the sky.

The man quickly filled his bags and pockets with the stones and went to the nearest restaurant. When he wanted to pay with his money, the waiter said “sir, we don’t accept precious stones here”

And the man was like “what, why not?!”

real riches

“Well, there’s something in economics called the supply and demand graph, which establish the price balance for a certain goo. Since precious stones are a commodity here, they are not worth much, right?”

The guy was like “ok, thanks for the lesson. So what do you guys accept as currency”.

Real riches in this world

The waiter replied “chicken fat”.

The guy was stumped but saw that it made sense and after washing the dishes, took a job as a water carrier that was paid in chicken fat. Time went on and he saved some chicken fat to buy a horse, then a carriage, then a store, and suddenly he became rich according to the local standard, which was tons of chicken fat.

Meanwhile he forgot about the reason why he came to that land and after selling everything, he loaded his boat with chicken fat and came back.

The wife saw the chicken fat which had now rotted, and was livid, berating him for squandering his time with useless stuff when he was supposed to have brought the precious stones.

This, my friends, is a powerful metaphor for this fleeting life in this world.

The Torah and Mitzvot (the commandments) that help us come closer to God are often seen as useless because they are abundant. Anywhere you go you can pick them to develop a relationship with God, but most people don’t value them.

The chicken fat we use as currency are money, power, honor, pleasure, and everything else people sometimes worship.

But, when we leave this world we need to realize that only the precious stones will matter which is the degree to which we served God through his Torah and Mitzvot, and this is true both for Jews and non-Jews.

We need to open our eyes to the fact that we are not going to stay here forever, that often our time to go is much earlier than we imagine, and make the most out of our stay here.

DALL·E 2024 03 04 14.32.35 An ancient wise looking Jewish man with a long white beard wearing distinct traditional ancient Jewish garments stands in a vivid diverse natural

So the question is: will we waste our time with chicken fat, or will we make an effort to collect as many precious stones as we can before it’s our time to leave?

I think you know the answer and I bless you that you should have a happy, peace, and fulfilling life.

Comments on the video

In the context of Jewish teachings, this story aligns with the concept of “Olam Hazeh” (this world) versus “Olam Haba” (the world to come). As stated in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 4:16, “This world is like a corridor before the world to come; prepare yourself in the corridor so that you may enter the banquet hall.

The metaphor of chicken fat versus precious stones underscores the idea that our worldly pursuits are temporary (and often misguided). Yes, we need to live and make money, but eventually we all have to leave.

Therefore many of our Rabbis teach that we should focus on spiritual growth and mitzvot, which have eternal value. This perspective encourages us to prioritize actions that cultivate our relationship with Hashem and contribute to our spiritual well-being.

Moreover, the teachings of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal) in “Mesillat Yesharim” (The Path of the Just) help us gain a better perspective. The Ramchal explains that the true purpose of life is to attain closeness to God through righteousness and adherence to His commandments. He emphasizes that worldly pleasures and material gains are distractions that can lead us away from our spiritual goals.

Sure, there is a balance to strive and we can’t be hermits, but once Rabbi Meir Eliyahu (whom I greatly respect) shared a story of a young man who came distressed to him asking for a blessing because “he couldn’t pay his 3rd house”.

This aligns perfectly with the story’s message, reminding us that while material success might seem important, it pales in comparison to the lasting value of spiritual accomplishments.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov once famously said, “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing is not to be afraid at all.” This reflects the idea that life is full of distractions and challenges, but we must stay focused on what truly matters—our spiritual mission and connection to Hashem.

May we be blessed to succeed in our Tikkunim in this world.

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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