Less Is More
Sukkot (Leviticus 22:26-23:44 )
One of the lessons of Sukkot is that we don't need to have a lot of 'things' in order to be happy. Sukkot is called the 'holiday of joy' - the happiest time in the Jewish calendar - yet during the holiday we leave our big, comfortable homes and spend most of our time in small, simple thatched huts. The 'simple' joy of Sukkot gives us the valuable gift of knowing how to be happy - even with less.
In our story, a kid discovers that less can be more.
"Mom, I can't even fit all of my clothes into these measly closets!" Josh cried out glumly as his mother walked past his bedroom carrying a moving-carton.
"Well, maybe that means you have too many clothes," she grinned.
Hah, hah, very funny! the boy thought. There had been plenty of room for his stuff in the big house where they used to live.
"Why did we have to move into this dumb, tiny condo, anyway?" he blurted out to no one in particular, as his mother had already moved on. Not that it mattered, he already knew the answer - it had to do with his dad getting a different kind of a job - but that didn't mean he had to be happy about it.
After finally squeezing the last hanger onto the closet rod, Josh plopped down on his bed and looked around. True, he had all his furniture like in his old room, but now there wasn't space for almost anything else. Feeling claustrophobic and just plain mad, Josh stepped outside to get some air. He leaned over the railing of their condo's small porch - nothing at all like the big back yard they used to have - and sighed.
"Hey, are you new here?"
Josh heard a voice call out, but couldn't figure out from where.
"Up here, man."
Josh craned his neck upward to see a smiling, freckled-faced boy about his age, looking down at him from the porch above.
"You just moved in, right?" the kid went on.
"Well, I'm Steve - we're neighbors from now on."
"Uh, hi. I'm Josh."
"Hi Josh. You like playing street hockey?"
Josh nodded, his face brightening - he'd been part of an official street-hockey league where he used to live.
"Well, me and some other kids from here play every afternoon at parking lot 'C'. I'm going now from out front - wanna come?"
"Um ... sure. Just give me a minute." Josh ran back inside and started rummaging through the cartons that had his sports equipment. In his old house, he'd kept all this stuff neatly in an equipment locker in their big garage. Here they didn't even have a garage.
He fished out his pro-style helmet, knee, shoulder and elbow pads, laced on his official hockey shoes and slipped his mesh, league jersey over his head. Then he reached under his bed, grabbed his fiberglass, pro-curve stick. All this stuff had cost a lot, but it was worth it. You needed the best equipment if you wanted to really enjoy the game. He quickly told his mom where he was going and sprinted out the door.
Steve was there, waiting.
"Let's go," Steve said, giving Josh a strange look.
Josh noticed that Steve wasn't wearing - or even carrying - his uniform or pads or anything. The guys in the league here must have a private locker room where they keep their stuff, in the gym the kid had said was at the end of the parking lot.
Or so Josh thought. Because a minute later when they got there, he realized not only was there no locker room, there wasn't even a gym. Just a group of kids in their regular clothes, laughing and running around with old, beat-up hockey sticks in the parking lot. His face fell.
This wasn't a hockey league! It was just a dumb, little pick-up game - small and shabby - like everything in this dumb place, they'd moved to!
"Josh, you'll play on my team," Steve said, waving the kid into the action. Well, he was already here, he might as well play - just this once.
Before he had a chance to think, someone had shot the hockey ball (at least they had one of those!) his way. Soon he was running and mixing it up with the guys who, he had to admit, played pretty well. In fact, since they weren't as loaded down as he was, they were moving so fast he could hardly keep up.
As the game went on, more and more of Josh's fancy, official equipment came off, until he was running around looking like the rest of the guys, laughing with them - and having a blast! Could it be that having fancier stuff - or a bigger house - wasn't what made a person happy, after all?
"Great game Josh!" Steve slapped him on the back. "Tomorrow, same time same place."
"You bet!" Josh nodded, thinking to himself that though he was surely in a different, more simple place than he'd been used to, there was no reason from now on he couldn't have just as good a time.
Q. How did Josh feel at first about the new place where they had moved?
A. He didn't like it, because it wasn't as big or fancy.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt like he could be happy there even if it was more simple.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Josh learned that day?
A. He felt that having nice stuff and a big house were what made a person happy, but after having to move and live in a more simple way he discovered that happiness wasn't about what you do or don't have.
Q. Then, what is the key to happiness?
A. Happiness comes when we're content with what we have (even if it's less than we'd hoped) and find a way to make the most of whatever we do have.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think having more possessions would cause a person to have more, or less, worries?
A. Surprisingly, our sages teach that the answer is 'more.' Once a person can meet his very basic bottom-line needs, having more things to take care of, protect, etc., only worries and weighs him down.
Q. Can a person be poor and still be rich? How?
A. True wealth is a sense of contentment and a feeling that one's needs are being provided for. A person who builds a strong, close relationship with God, who is the ultimate provider, will feel content and in 'good hands' no matter what is going on in his external life. A connection with God is the one investment that never fails and always pays dividends.