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There is no such thing as neutral, or even negative, qualities, for even those that appear futile, and maybe even destructive, can be channeled into constructive paths.

Rabbi Allouche

How do you spend your money?

A recent study examined this question, and the answers weren’t too flattering. 

Apparently, the average American spends more money on clothing and restaurants, than on education and health insurance…

Shortly after their grand exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people were faced with a similar question. They too were blessed with much money to spend, after they had “plundered the Egyptians.” In fact, according to the Midrash, they became even wealthier, during the splitting of the Red Sea, when they collected much of the jewelry that had washed ashore, from the drowning of the Egyptians.

But what did they do with their money? Did they go out on shopping sprees?

Well, even if they may have desired to use their money for futile purposes, G-d commanded them to use their wealth to build a sanctuary in the Sinai desert.

With this simple commandment, G-d was teaching them and us all that there is no such thing as neutral, or even negative, qualities, for even those that appear futile, and maybe even destructive, can be channeled into constructive paths. 

For example, envy can be a most destructive trait. But what if we become envious of a holy and spiritual person? What if we envy good deeds? That can only make us better people. This is why the Talmud teaches that if a person has a tendency, say, to ‘spill blood’, he should become a surgeon or a shochet, a ritual slaughterer of animals.

This idea is particularly relevant in the domain of education. For, we often see our children and our students, with ‘bad’ qualities that we rush to judge them and frame them as “bad” or “misbehaved.” Yet, G-d teaches us that even those qualities that may make us mischievous can be channeled for the good.

In a recent TED Talk titled “Do schools kill creativity?” Sir Ken Robinson tells the story of Gillian Lynne, a renowned British choreographer, whose works include “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

One day Sir Robinson and Gillian were having lunch, and she revealed to him that she became a dancer, after her mother took her to an expert to treat her for a “learning disorder,” as she was always “fidgeting.” 

When her mother entered the room of this expert, he turned on the radio, and he asked Gillian’s mother to leave the room with him, and leave their daughter in the room alone. After they left, he said to her mother, “now, just stand and watch her, through the outside window.” To her mother’s astonishment, Gillian was on her feet, moving to the music of the radio. After watching her for a few minutes, the expert turned to her mother and said, “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.”

So, friends, if you ever witness a seemingly futile or negative quality, in yourself, or in others, remember G-d’s approach, and channel it in a positive way. 

You are sure to them turn it, and yourself, into a beacon of light that will shine, inspire, and elevate our world.