Many people mistakenly think that peace of mind is dependent on external possessions. Rabbi Simcha Zissel cited the following story:
A wise man lived in dire poverty. To save him suffering, the king gave him a large amount of silver and gold.
To the king’s amazement, the wise man came the next morning and said: “Here is your gold and silver. Please take it back because I don’t want it.”
“Why would you return my gift?” the astonished king asked.
“My master,” replied the wise man, “my entire life I have always had peace and tranquility. I have never pursued wealth and have always been satisfied with the basic necessities of life. Due to my modest demands I have always had more than what I needed. My mind was free to engage in my studies. But yesterday when I took the silver, my mind started worrying about what I would do with the money. Perhaps I should invest in real estate; perhaps I should begin a commercial venture. My mind was in such turmoil that I was unable to sleep. I found myself so preoccupied with the money that no other thoughts entered my mind. Please take the money back. I had more peace of mind before!”
Today, ask yourself: Is my pursuit of materialism in any way a source of anxiety?
(Sources: see Chochmah Umussar, vol.1, p.5; Gateway to Happiness, p.80) Rabbi Pliskin