The Forbidden Slippers
The architect Adolf Loos, wrote a story in 1900 entitled, “The Story of A Poor Rich Man.” In it, a wealthy man calls on a famous architect, telling him, “Bring art into my home, regardless of the expense.”
The architect hastens to renovate the apartment of his client. The colors of each room are carefully calculated. Each object has a rigorously determined place. The doorbells chime in tune to musical themes from Wagner and Beethoven. The client is initially thrilled: whether turning a knob, reclining in an armchair, or treading on a rug, he is living in Art.
One day, the architect visits the master of the house and chides him for wearing inappropriate slippers. The host reminds his visitor that the embroidered slippers were custom-made according to the architect’s own design.
“I know that!” thunders the architect. “But they are for the bedroom!”
The client soon commits new blunders by accepting gifts. “You no longer need anything,” the architect sternly tells the poor rich man. “You are complete!”
The poor rich man was reduced to being a spectator of his own clotted and shriveled life.
This week’s portion, Nasso, describes a similar “Poor Rich Man,” the Nazir. At first glance, his vow to become a Nazirite seems holy. He is consumed with a desire to live in sanctity. However, he must bring a sin offering when his vow ends. He chose to wear only the perfect slippers in their proper place. He, too, desired to be complete, and to focus only on the perfection of his world.
This world is our home, and it is filled with the most magnificent art. The Art in our home is not limited to externals; the real Art is in the living and how we use the Art all around us. The complete person lives the Art of Life, he does not live in Art. The complete person honors the Architect of life by vibrantly living in every room, every aspect of life. He finds his completeness in making choices, in sometimes wearing the wrong slippers of clashing colors.
A “Shaleim,” or complete person, is never a spectator, but the most important aspect in each area of his life. It is he, who chooses the colors, design and style. The Nazir chose to be a spectator. It is for that reason that he must bring a sin offering.
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