Thank Goodness that I Don't Understand Him
Negotiating in Faith

The vestibule and the ballroom

The following is an allegory based on a story told by our renowned beloved sage, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, better known as the "Chofetz Chaim", of blessed memory:

A wealthy dignitary purchased a lavish six-million dollar penthouse in the posh Georgetown section of Washington, DC, for the purpose of entertaining his commercial and political associates. He had all the walls torn down, and then ordered an interior-design architect to plan the spacious 3000 square-foot apartment from scratch.

"This penthouse is for the sole purpose of entertainment," he told the architect, "so all I need is a vestibule for receiving no fewer than 150 guests and a ballroom for dining and dancing."

"Superb," said the the architect, "let's begin with the vestibule. What elements would you like?"

"I want my guests to be overwhelmed when they enter; there should be two rows of Italian marble statues, and a fountain in the middle. Both walls should be lined with no fewer than ten paintings on each side, preferably a French expressionist genre; I also want the finest Turkish-wool carpets, and in addition, I'd like..."

"Excuse me, sir," interjected the architect. Such a vestibule with room for the paintings, the statues, and the fountain will require at least 2000 square feet. You'll only be left with a ballroom of 1000 square feet; barely 70 people can dine in such a space. As far as room for an orchestra and dancing, forget it..."

"Then what do I do?" asked the perplexed dignitary.

"My suggestion," answered the architect, "is that you forego the fountain and the statues, and that we plan a limited, tasteful vestibule with a few paintings on the wall and a small reception bar. Let's confine the vestibule to about 500 square feet; as it is, people won't spend much time there. Everyone is interested in entering the ballroom, where the real action is. So, if we plan a 2500 square-foot ballroom, your 150 guests can dine and dance comfortably."

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The moral: This world is like a vestibule, and the next world is like a ballroom. Each of us has his or her allotment of "square feet", in other words, the days and resources of our lives. If we waste them on a fancy vestibule - a place where we only spend 70, 80, or 90 years, then we'll have nothing left for our "ballroom", our world to come, where we shall spend an eternity. Since this life is a mere corridor for the next life, then we'd be wise to invest as much of our resources as possible in spirituality - whose dividends are eternal - and as little as possible in material amenities, which are here today and gone tomorrow.

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