Several years ago, a reporter sat down with Tom Brady – legendary NFL quarterback - and asked him the following: “So Tom, you probably are extremely happy, you have everything anyone could ever dream about, is that right?” This interview took place at the time when Tom Brady had already won 3 Super Bowls, received a 16-million-dollar contract, and was the face of the NFL.
Brady replied to the reporter, “If you would have told me 7 years ago, before I married my wife, before my Super Bowl rings…before all of this…I would have promised that if I actually got these things, I’ll be the happiest man alive. Now that I’m there, I realize there must be something more out there.” The reporter was speechless.
In a world of Gashmius, a world of physicality, it is extremely hard to find people who are satisfied with what they have. There is always more money to make, more houses and cars to buy, and more restaurants to eat at. Tom Brady, who has it all – from a physical perspective – felt that “there must be something more out there.” In other words, Tom Brady truly does NOT have it all; he admittedly felt he was lacking. Money and fame may be alluring, but in truth, the people who have these things – generally – don’t feel that same level of excitement that the bystanders think they must have.
It is human nature to contrast ourselves with the people in our lives that have more than us. But if you are honest, having these thoughts of “I wish I had what he has” are far more dangerous than they are helpful.
The holy Baal Shem Tov HaKadosh makes a startling observation. In this week’s Parshah, Vaeschanan (4:39), the Torah says: בַּשָּׁמַ֣יִם מִמַּ֔עַל וְעַל־הָאָ֖רֶץ מִתָּ֑חַת – G-d is in the Heavens above and on the earth below. Isn’t it obvious that the שמים, heavens, is ממעל, up above, and the ארץ, earth, is מתחת, down below? If you ask any first grader, they will be able to tell you this. What is the חידוש, the special teaching, of the words in this verse?
The Baal Shem Tov gives us an insight into how we can be successful in This World. The Torah is educating us when we should be jealous and humbled, and when we should feel satisfied and content. When it comes to בשמים, to matters pertaining to “Heaven,” such as Torah, Mitzvos, and Yiras Shamayim (fear of G-d), a person should always strive to look ממעל, at the people above him, at those bigger and greater than him. By doing this, it will instill within him a feeling of, “Oh my gosh, I have so much more to do and accomplish. I need to do more.” When it comes to שמים – spiritual – related matters, we should strive to always be hungry for more.
However, when it comes to והארץ, to matters pertaining to “earth,” such as money and other physical possessions, a person should always strive to look מתחת, at the people below him, at those who have less than him. By doing this, it will instill within a him a feeling of, “Oh my gosh, look how much I have. I am so appreciative and thankful for this lot. I am so grateful.” When it comes to ארץ – physical – related matters, we should strive to always be content with what we have.
It is this duality of בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת – being hungry for more spirituality and being satisfied with less physicality – that will enable us to truly be happy individuals and live our lives with the utmost sense of awareness, success, and accomplishment.
Have a holy Shabbos!