Jon wasn’t convinced. “That’s all great, but I still say that when it comes down to it, it’s ‘the package’ that counts the most.”
The guys packed up their stuff and headed back to Avi’s place where his mom had set out some bowls of milk and several boxes of cereal for the hungry athletes. Avi picked up a bright, colorful box and began to pour it into Jon’s bowl.
“Whoa, I’ll take some of that other stuff if you don’t mind, it tastes much better.”
But to Jon’s surprise, Avi hid the second box behind his back and wouldn’t pass it to him.
“Hey, c’mon man! Let me have that other cereal.”
“What do you want that for?” Avi said with a smile. “It’s in such a plain box. This cereal here is in a much nicer looking package, and that’s ‘what counts,’ remember?”
Despite himself, Jon couldn’t help laughing – or getting the point either. After breakfast Jon decided to stick around to help Avi shovel out his driveway, and celebrate Chanukah and what it stood for by not just admiring his muscles, but putting them to good use for a worthwhile cause as well.
Q. How did Jon feel about working out at the gym at first?
A. He felt that it was enough to do it just to look good.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. That it’s important not to just look good, but be good and use what we have to help others.
Q. What Chanukah message was Avi trying to relate to his friend?
A. That everything physical, like good looks, athletic talent, and wealth, are only positive things if we use them for good, worthwhile purposes. For example, the muscles he had built by working out weren’t just for admiring or impressing others, but for using them in a way that would help people and make the world a better place.
Q. Who’s more beautiful: someone with a gorgeous face who acts unkindly, or one with not very nice facial features but who acts kindly? Why?
A. Real beauty isn’t about the color of a person’s eyes or the shape of his nose. Someone can have the most gorgeous face in the world and be hideously ugly if he or she acts cruelly to others. On the other hand, someone who tries to do what’s good and right and cares about others is beautiful no matter what his face looks like. Once we learn how to see with our hearts and not with our eyes, we will understand.
Ages 10 and up
Q. Must something have a higher ethical purpose to be beautiful or of value?
A. At first glance it might seem as if something’s physical appearance and whether or not it is connected to a higher purpose are unrelated. But the Jewish approach is more holistic and sees something’s outer physical properties and its inner spiritual properties as parts of a greater whole, and therefore unless something is spiritually beautiful, which means it is reaching toward its higher purpose, its looks are of little consequence.
Q. Does being spiritual mean pulling away from anything physical or superficial, like trying to look good?
A. Not at all. True spirituality is not about “escaping” from the physical, nor indulging in it for its own sake, but rather raising the physical up, by using it – but always with an eye on how to connect it to something higher. For instance, when eating a good meal, we should sincerely have in mind to use the energy the food gives us to do good deeds, or in the case of looking good, we should view it as an aspect of staying healthy, or as a way to make a positive impression on those we would like to inspire to improve their lives.