Do you recognize quality when you see it? Many people don't.
The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a told me a beautiful parable about the things with true lasting value in life:
There was once a young fabric merchant making his first transactions. He heard about the tremendous trade fair in the city of Leipzig, so he decided to attend in hopes of buying top fabric at low prices, which he'd ultimately sell for a handsome profit in the small villages.
The young merchant decided to first make the rounds among the dozens of fabrics wholesalers who were exhibiting their wares at the fair, to become acquainted with the many types and prices before he'd make his purchases. He went from table to table and booth to booth, looking at rolls of every type of fabric imaginable. Finally, a booth with rolls of shiny chartreuse satin caught his eye. It looked gorgeous; the fabric shimmered in the sunlight. It resembled sunbeams shining through sheaves of wheat flowing in the wind. He never saw such a beautiful fabric. This would surely make a stunning evening gown fit for a queen. The price seemed more than reasonable too. The young merchant jotted down the name of the wholesaler, the type of fabric and the price, and made a mental note to return after he made his initial visits to all the different fabrics exhibits.
The last booth that the young merchant visited seemed to be shabby at best. The wholesaler was an old man wearing a tattered gray suit, not near as impressive as the Italian wholesaler who sold the fancy satin fabric. Yet, what caught the young merchant's eye was the price tag on a roll of a plain, monotonously-colored cotton fabric; it was triple the price of the fancy chartreuse satin fabric, and not near as pretty!
“What's going on here?” the young merchant asked the elderly wholesaler. “This fabric isn't nearly as attractive as the gorgeous satin fabrics I've seen, yet it's triple the price! How can that be?”
The old wholesaler smiled patiently. “I know just what you're talking about. The Italian satin caught your eye, didn't it? I'll tell you what – I'm willing to buy you a sample of that fabric at my expense. And, I'll give you a sample of my own cotton fabric. Wash them both and see how they look after one washing. The fancy Italian satin will lose its sheen after one washing, and after a second washing, it will look no better than a shiny rag. Besides, it's uncomfortable to the skin for the fabric doesn't breath. Sure, my fabric is more expensive, but in the long run, it's a much better buy. It will look the same in three years after dozens of washings as it does today. Anyone to whom you sell my cotton fabric will bless you. Your customers won't have nice things to say about if you sell them a fabric that's used once then thrown away. Don't let the outside glitter fool you. I'm not saying that you should choose my product, but before you make any purchase, examine what you buy inside and out. Will it look just as good in a few years as it does today? Is it comfortable? Is it easy to work with? Is it a passing fad or is it a basic fabric that will always be in style?”
The young merchant realized the truth in the old wholesaler's words. After carefully examining both types of fabric, he realized that the old wholesaler was completely accurate in everything he said...
The fancy satin fabric with its outward sheen is a metaphor of the secular world and its external glimmer. It looks like people are having a great time going to night clubs, rock concerts, and NBA games. So many folks seem to be driving nice cars and living in fancy homes. Yet, beneath the cosmetic facade, they're leasing the car – it's not theirs. They're falling way behind on their mortgage payments. They purchased their chic new clothes with their credit card, and the already owe five-figures worth of accumulated credit-card debts. They're not at all happy either. In short, the fancy fabric after close inspection or after one washing looks like a rag.
* * *
The plain cotton fabric is symbolic of Judaism. From the outside, it looks dull and boring. But intrinsically, it's priceless; it never gets old and never loses its appearance. At close inspection, it just looks better and better. And, it's a fabric that's so very comfortable to the soul.
Passover night is an excellent example of Judaism's outside apparent dullness that conceals its inner glamor and excitement. To those who lack an appreciation for Judaism's exquisite inner dimension, Passover seems strangling: you can't eat bread or bread derivatives, you have to spend an arm and a leg preparing for the holiday, and you have to work your fingers to the bone – how dull and unattractive to the spiritually unaware! Yet, once one realizes that Passover is true freedom, that our Hagada is a monumental story of our people that is ever so relevant to this day, and that we sit around our Seder table like the sons of royalty, he can begin to recognize the deep inner value of Judaism.
Don't let the external glitter fool you. Don't fall prey to fad spirituality. Go for the finest fabric – the Judaism of Torah. Happy Passover!
* * *
We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal Lazer Beams.