Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. Proverbs 17:1
I have a friend who made a living out of building custom luxury homes and then selling them. In between the time that the houses were built and sold, my friend and his family would live in them. This was a practical decision that saved the family much-needed money. I once asked his wife if she enjoyed this by-product of her husband's business. She said, "You know what? I have lived in simple homes and in luxury homes and this is what I've learned: When you close your eyes at night to go to sleep, they are all exactly the same!"
It dawned on me that we don't really live in our homes; we reside in our bodies. Our house can be simple and humble or elegant and luxurious, but at the end of the day, none of that dictates how we feel. How we think, what we believe, and whether or not we have peace is what determines how we feel when we close our eyes at night. Our bodies are with us all day and all night; they are our true abode. The things we place in our heads and hearts are far more important than the things we have in our homes.
This is what King Solomon meant in Proverbs when he wrote: "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." It's better to possess little but live with peace and quiet than to attain all that there is to have but live in a state of turmoil. The Jewish sages taught that this rings true in regards to our actual homes - they need not be lavish, but they do need to be peaceful. It is also true for our bodies - we don't need a lot, but we need peace of mind to be happy.
Our generation is in need of this wisdom more than any other. Ironically, because we have the ability to have more, we stand the risk of being less happy than previous generations. In fact, studies have shown that our generation is more melancholy than ones before us who have lived with less. Moreover, studies have indicated that people in countries with the highest standard of living did not correlate with the happiest people, but sometimes countries with far less at their disposable contained some of the happiest people in the world.
Let's remember that peace of mind is more satisfying than anything that we put in our stomach. Good relationships with our loved ones is far greater than anything that money can buy. Everyone wants to find happiness, but only some will look in the right places.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President