A lot of life comes down to one choice – are we committed to things and behaviors that have real, lasting value, or are we ready to give them up for a momentary thrill?
When Esav saw Yaakov with some delicious looking food he was so overcome he was willing to trade his birthright, which would have given him and his descendants special spiritual privileges forever, in order to have some. When he later regretted his decision, it was too late. It’s important to remember that fun is fine, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of things that really count.
In our story, Riki has to decide whether to stay in for the long haul.
It was the end of a great night out. The rain that had been falling non-stop for nearly a week had finally let up. Riki and her friend Laya were in a great mood and a stop at the ice cream shop was just the thing to make the night complete.
Maybe it was the loud music, or the bright lights, but the place just kind of made you feel like you had left earth and entered “planet ice cream.” The waitress came and all the kids ordered.
“Whatchya gonna have, Rik?” asked Laya. “I personally recommend the Double Fudge Sundae. Its chocolate heaven!”
Riki looked at her rail-thin friend, and laughed. “Maybe its heaven for you, but for me it might be just the opposite. It’s not exactly on my diet, you know!” Riki, unlike her friend, was a bit chubby, and she felt proud that she had been able to faithfully follow the diet her nutritionist had given her for the last two months. Staying on it made her look great, and feel great about herself too.
But Riki had to admit that the ice cream looked scrumptious. Besides, what harm could one sundae really do? She felt her resolve melting faster than ice cream in a microwave.
Why not have a good time? she thought. “I’ll take the same, please!” she told the waitress on impulse, and handed in her menu.
“Way to go!” Laya said with a smile. “I hate to eat alone.”
When the orders arrived Laya began to dig in. As she happily inhaled her sundae, Riki seemed to be having second thoughts. Her friend noticed her squirming uncomfortably in her seat, her ice cream untouched.
“What’s the matter, Rik? They forgot to give you a spoon?” teased Laya, already down to her second scoop.
Riki laughed and decided to dig in. “Nope! Got it right here,” she said, holding up the long silvery spoon. “And you better watch out, ’cause I’m gonna catch up with you in about half a minute.”
Riki dug the spoon deep into the chocolaty mountain and brought it to her mouth. She just knew it was going to be as delicious as it looked. But just as she was about to take a bite, something inside made her pull back. What am I doing? she thought to herself. I’ve been working so hard for the last two months to stay on my diet. I’m healthier. I’m happier. Do I really want go and blow all that in one fell “scoop”? Once I start, it’s going to be really hard to stop. It’s not worth it!
Riki pushed the plate away and felt an immediate sense of relief. Noticing her friend’s surprised glance, Riki smiled and said, “Well, Laya, it looks like you may have won the ice cream race, but at least I won the ‘Battle of the Bulge!’”
Q. How did Riki feel when she first decided to order the ice cream?
A. She felt an urge to eat it even though it wasn’t on her diet and it wouldn’t be good for her.
Q. How did she feel after she decided not to eat it after all?
A. She felt great that she was able to control her impulse, and act in a way she knew would really be better for her in the end.
Q. Why would a person ever hold himself back from doing something that he feels like?
A. Often by holding back from doing one thing, we’re able to gain something else that we want even more. In the story, Riki held back from the short-term pleasure of the ice cream so she could maintain her commitment to her diet, which in the long term was more valuable to her. Another example would be someone who resists an urge to smoke because he would prefer having healthy lungs and the best chance of a long life.
Q. Does that mean that a person can never just “go for it” and have some spur-of-the-moment fun?
A. There’s definitely a time and a place for spontaneous fun. But the main thing is that a person should keep his eyes open and calculate what is actually at stake, and whether or not it’s really worth it. It’s fine to have some fun, but a person has to always know how far he is willing to go.
Q. Can you think of a struggle you went through where you felt this tension between short-term and long-term gain?
Ages 10 and up
Q. How is long-term thinking the sign of a spiritually developed person?
A. We all have impulses, whether it’s a desire for ice cream or anything else. It’s a normal part of being human. However, besides these short-term, generally physical impulses, each of us has a deeper, spiritual essence with its own set of goals and desires. Some of these might include developing our minds, improving our character traits, getting along better with others, etc. Most often these spiritual goals take time before they yield their results and bring us pleasure. The more spiritually tuned in we are, the more real these things are to us, and the more likely we will be willing to invest ourselves in them even at the expense of some of our short-term desires.
Q. What do you thing our sages mean when they say that a wise man is able to see what will develop out of his choices?
A. It refers to an ability to look beyond the immediate results of a given decision, and project several steps into the future, to realize what that decision is likely to bring about. In our story, it would mean being able to look past the taste of the ice cream and see a broken diet, likely future binges, and the physical and emotional discomfort of being overweight.
Q. Can you think of a struggle you went through where you felt this tension between short-term and long-term gain?Nesanel Yoel Safran
About the Author: Nesanel Yoel Safran is a published writer and yeshiva cook. He has been studying Torah for the last 25 years, and lives in Israel with his family.
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