Today is the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Aharon Kotler, Zítl, whose life has already
impacted on generations of Torah Jewry. We would like to share a few brief
paragraphs of Rav Aharons view on the struggle between ruchniyus and
gashmius. These paragraphs are taken from the book Rav Aharon Kotler by R
Yitzchok Durshowitz, Shlita (pp. 21-23).
It should be pointed out that
materialism is a relative term. No one today can be expected to live with
furnishings like those found in the home of the Chofetz Chaim, nor did the
Rosh Yeshiva expect everyone to match his degree of bitul
hagashmius--negation of materialism. For that matter it is doubtful if a
yeshiva today could attract bochurim and command the respect due to Torah if
it were housed and furnished like the Radin Yeshiva of old. The Rosh Yeshiva
himself planned the present Bais Medrash building [in Lakewood, New Jersey]
and it is well built, large and comfortable.
Nevertheless the Rosh
Yeshiva did try hard to teach a non-materialistic life style, a life style of
histapkus bímuat--satisfaction with only the minimum, practical physical
amenities, a life style where fulfillment and satisfaction derive from
spiritual accomplishments, a life style consonant with an awareness of Hashem
VíToroso, of Tachlis Hachayim--the real purpose of our life on earth--a life
style of a Ben Olam Habo--a World to Come Jew who lives for and connects to
netzach nitzochim--everlasting life--eternity. And in this, his home and the
Yeshiva of that era can serve as a beacon of light for future
The following is actually the translation of Mishnas Rebbe
Aharon (Volume 3, page 123), as translated in Rabbi Durshowitzs
It is well known that histapkus, being satisfied with just
the basics, is one of the greatest attributes. The Vilna Gaon writes (in
Even Shlaimah) that this quality is even more necessary than bitachon to
acquire Torah. One aspect of histapkus is to train oneself to be satisfied
with little and not run after bigger and better in food, in clothing, etc.
Nevertheless, at this level, one still feels that he is missing something.
An even higher level is Someach Bíchelko--to be happy with whatever one
has, without being bothered because of what he does not possess, without
even feeling he is missing anything. The highest level of all, however, is
the attribute of Yeish Li Kol--feeling that he has everything, that there
is nothing more [materially] that he could even want. This is what [Hashem
meant when he said to Avrohom Ovinu] Víheyei tomim--be whole, perfect,
May we take this great teaching from Rav Aharon and
climb the ladder--from being satisfied, to being happy--to elevating
ourselves to the middah of Avraham Avinu himself!