The other day, when my foot accidentally touched someone’s electronic scale, I recoiled like I’d just stepped on a hot coal. A few zeroes passed over the digital screen. I instantly averted my eyes: Pay no attention to these numbers.
Why did I respond like that to such a harmless experience?
I know that everything in the physical world has a spiritual corollary and contains a lesson for me in how to serve G-d. The lesson can be big (the miraculous survival of the Jewish people) or small (what is it with me and my scale?). Actually, my relationship to my scale is not so small, judging from my recent reaction. Here are four things I’ve learned from it:
- Know before Whom I give an account. Weight is just a number, I know, but when I get on my scale, I can’t fool myself that the number is anything other than what it is. The same is true spiritually; I may not see the two scales G-d uses to measure my deeds, but there’s no fooling here either. With G-d, the objective is clearly to pile on the good deeds and take off the less than good ones with sincere (there’s no other kind) repentance.
- The struggle is the service. If I want to have a good relationship with my scale, I have to be committed to it for life. and success doesn’t come easily. When I heard this line in a spiritual context many years ago when I was first becoming observant, I wanted to cry. I felt like I had a hundred spiritual pounds to lose and these words were supposed to comfort me. Instead, they sounded like a warning that I shouldn’t expect to be happy–ever– even if I got into spiritual shape. Only G-d knows what ultimately motivated me to get with the program, and stay with it. But It took many years before my spirit actually felt lighter. I may not need to struggle anymore, but I do need to be vigilant; I don’t want to lose the feeling I’ve worked so hard to gain.
- It only matters which way I’m going. My scale is very old. I don’t think it’s even accurate, but it’s accurate enough for me, especially if it’s the only scale I ever use. Which is why I never want to touch another scale. Mine tells me the only thing I need to know–if I’m up or down compared to the last time I got on it. Even “staying the same” reflects the dynamic of weight management. My relationship with G-d is my spiritual dynamic; “gaining” and “losing” are relative terms that depend solely on my past performance.
- My relationship with my scale is my business. Sort of. If everybody knows the basic diet rules, why is it so hard for so many of us to incorporate them? Because it’s not just about the food. We don’t like to talk about our weight. We can even be competitive about it. (I once saw an embroidered pillow that said, “God, If You Can”t Make Me Thin, At Least Make My Fiends Fat.”) If I looked at eating as strictly a G-dly endeavor, I would eat sparingly and healthfully all week–just enough so I could serve Him with joy. Shabbos and holidays would be days to honor Him by enjoying my favorite delicacies. (Believe it or not, some people do adhere to this holy regimen, but not many.) The rest of us have a relationship with food, and ultimately the scale, that’s complicated by much more earthly concerns. I can only ponder how my own relationship with the scale affects my relationships with others, and work to address this issue, knowing that ultimately, I’m looking for the light.