By: Rabbi Silverman
I was once teaching a classroom full of students. On the last day, I began the class: “My dear students, today is our last class together before you graduate. For this special occasion, I am going to do something different. I am going to teach you the secret of a good cholent.” The students looked at each other. Cholent, for their final lesson?
I took out a crockpot and filled it to the brim with potatoes. I asked, “Tell me, now that I have filled the pot with potatoes, is the pot full?”
“Yes,” they replied, bemused, for there was no way to fit in any more potatoes into the pot.
I took out a bag of beans and poured it into the pot, and the beans managed to slip between the spaces among the potatoes. “OK,” I said. “Now is the pot full?”
Looking into the pot the students agreed that it was indeed full. “Really?” I took out spices, shaking generous amounts of salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder into the pot. The students watched dumbfounded as the spices easily settled into what had seemed to be a completely full pot. With a smile, I asked, “Is it full yet?”
Without waiting for the answer, a jug of water went into the pot. “Now it really is full, right?” The students all nodded in agreement.
“Are you sure?” I prodded. “Are you absolutely certain I can’t fit anything more into this pot?”
The students looked at each other nervously and said, “Surely you can’t put anything else into there!”
Dramatically, I raised a finger in the air, lowered it slowly and flicked a switch on the side of the pot, turning on the heating element.
“You see,” I said, “I just filled the pot with the most important ingredient of all— warmth. Without it, the pot may as well be empty.”
I paused, and looked deeply into their eyes.
“My children, you are about to leave my class and go on to live busy lives. In the big world, you will no longer have the luxury of studying holy
texts all day. In time, you will be consumed by the pressures of looking after a family and making a living. But always remember this: Your material pursuits are just the beans and potatoes or life. Your spirituality, that is the warmth. If you don’t maintain a spiritual connection, through praying every day, studying the holy books, and keeping focused on the true meaning of your lives, then you will end up as a cold cholent— very busy, very full, but empty.”
When you have lost touch with your soul, your family life can suffer, your career can be unfulfilling, you may not even be motivated to exercise. “But if you keep the fire burning in your soul, if you stick to a daily schedule that nourishes the spirit, even if it is only for a few minutes a day, then those few minutes will bring warmth and inspiration to all your other activities. A spiritual connection imbues your entire life with meaning, keeps you anchored and directed, inspired and motivated. It permeates all you do with a sense of purpose, andmakes you succeed.
“Youmay be wondering,” I concluded, “how will you have time for all this? How will you be able to juggle the demands of material life along with your spiritual development? You will find the answer by looking at the cholent. Did you notice that though the pot seemed full of potatoes and beans, barley, spices and water, when I added the warmth it did not overflow? Never think that adding spirituality to your schedule will overburden you. On the contrary, it will bring everything else in your life together, because it will remind you why you do all these other things in the first place—you work in order to be able to live a life of meaning, you get married in order to bring the best out in yourself and your spouse, you have children in order to educate themin the ways of goodness, you keep fit in order to have the strength to fulfill your mission. Spirituality is the warmth that does not take up space, it creates more. You should never think that you are so busy that you can’t afford to concentrate on your soul. The truth is, you can’t afford not to.