From where do we know money?
For it is written: “I am giving the money for the field; take it from me.”Â
— Talmud, Kiddushin 2a; Genesis 23:13
In this shopping season, the malls teem with rivers of coupon-wielding humanity, rushing through the aisles, washing up against the shelves, salivating for deals.
In this four-week period, between offline shopping (where you have to wait on line) and online shopping (where you don’t), hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of sales are processed and transacted. In fact, the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, does more than a quarter of its annual business in this one-month shopping window alone.
What, if any, is the soulful component to the shopping craze?
As we look for that perfect Holiday gift, or just for a good deal in general, let’s bring along some of the following spiritual shopping tools in our totes.
A sale is a transaction between two parties. This is one of the greatest gifts the Creator of reality has bestowed upon us: the ability for two seemingly disconnected entities to interact. We could have been created as self-sufficient beings, independent islands within the vast ocean of existence. But we weren’t. Instead, we were created as interdependent entities, where I need you and you need me. This tells us that by interacting and transacting we are in fact enriching each others’ lives and fulfilling the very purpose of existence.
The reason things cost money is because we as consumers value them. The challenge is to translate that monetary worth into more transcendent worth. When we make a blessing before consuming a food item that we have purchased, we are stating that this item has an intrinsic value that transcends its price tag and surpasses the barcode scan. When we use an expensive purchase (for example, a computer) for divine ends (such as raising money for charity), we are essentially revealing how rich that product really is.
THE MALL ELEVATOR
The term “consumer” implies someone that consumes and devours, thereby making the consumed item less than it originally was. The Spiritual Shopper, however, does not consume, but rather elevates. Everything we purchase, in addition to being a wonderful material item, is a means to a spiritual achievement. As a Spiritual Shopper, one never makes an item less than it originally was, but elevates that item to the peaks of what it truly can be.
For example, a consumer buys a box of chocolates and devours them just for the enjoyment of eating. A Spiritual Shopper buys a box of chocolates, makes a blessing before and after eating the chocolates, eats the chocolates with gratitude to the Creator of chocolates, and then uses the energy he receives from the chocolates to do good deeds.
In the very physical, material, empirical world in which we live, a purchase is one of the most concrete ways to make a statement. Sure, words are nice, as are thoughts, and certainly feelings; but the way to really effect change in a tangible way is through our actions and transactions. When we purchase a home and turn it into a divine dwelling, it is a profound act; when we buy a car and use it to drive an elderly grandmother to the store, that is a revolutionary deed; when we get a good deal on a product and give the money saved to charity, we have changed the world.
In general, we may look at everything we buy in one of two ways: 1) objects that fulfill our needs and desires; or 2) means for us to fulfill our purpose here on this earth.
The Physical Shopper buys things to fill a void in his/her life: I need a gift, I lack a shirt, I want that gadget.
The Spiritual Shopper buys things to fulfill a void in the world: how can this gift make the world more complete? How can I clothe the needy? How can this gadget convey a sublime message?
This holiday season, let your internal Spiritual Shopper take charge of your shopping cart.
Thank you and you’re welcome.