By Dr. Zev Ballen
I stood fixated by the beautiful architecture of the modern-day mansion before me. My eyes greedily surveyed the opulent curves of its large archways; its intricate brickwork, numerous rooms and terraces. The lavish garden surrounding the house, features beautiful custom made benches and chairs on a spacious lawn. All around are a wide variety of rare looking flowers and trees - everything is perfectly arranged. A magnificent brick wall, iron gate and tree-lined fence surrounds the property.
Tucked away at the far end of an old charedi neighborhood, the mansion conspicuously dwarfs the old apartments that surround it. It's size and opulence appear almost obscene in that context.
Nevertheless, I like to walk there at night. It is a quiet and pleasant place to think and pray. Tonight, more than ever before, I was drawn to the sheer beauty of the balconies and the huge chandelier which was visible through the window. A gentle breeze carried a delicious fragrance of flower blossoms through the tall fence to where I stood on the street. I was starting to lose myself. A wish to enjoy and possess this house was pulling me away from my prayers.
The power of imagine took hold of me - I entered another 'world' but not a good one. Suddenly I was walkingthrough the rooms ofmy mansion, rubbing my hand along my expensive furnishings, admiring my artwork. And, at last, even taking my place at the head of a long table before hundreds of illustrious guests. I was about to deliver an important message when, thank G-d, I woke up.
'Master of the Universe, what's going on here!? I came outside to speak to You, and I'm stealing my neighbors house?'
The truth is I wouldn't know what to do with his house. It would be nothing but headaches for me to own it. Who has the time to think about all the details of decorating such a house and maintaining it in style? What would I do when items need replacing? Where will I ever find replacements for those fancy faucets and toilet seats? Nothing is a standard size. If I was the owner, the mansion would lose its majesty. It wouldn't be long before many items would need fixing and the garden would look neglected.
After praying in synagogue, Torah learning, personal prayer and spreading my Rebbe's teachings - how much time would be left for me to replace those weird looking bulbs overlooking my private ballroom or that cracked tile in the front hallway? If I stay where I live now, a cracked tile adds character to the old building; but in a mansion? ze past nisht! (it's really in poor taste!). It's a full-time job to own such a house.
Some of the most profoundly depressed people that I've treated as a psychotherapist were fabulously wealthy. Not only did their riches not help them, but their anxiety and depression was exacerbated by their wealth.
One of my patients was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He used to pick up the phone and give away a million dollars on the spot to a good cause. I used to travel to his mansion because he was too frightened and depressed to ever leave it. Once my patient gave a million dollars to big Jewish organization that helps very sick children...Continue here.
Dr. Zev Ballen