Are you a monkey? Don’t hurry with your answer. The truth is, it might be a harder question to answer than one might think. Just look at the movie Aladdin.
Aladdin, the poor fellow, was doing his best to find the genie, and then his monkey, Abu, ruined the whole thing for him by grabbing a big ruby, the very thing that huge scary tiger-in-the-sand told him not to do.
But don’t blame Abu. He was just doing what monkeys do. They see something they like, and go for it. No thought, just banana banana, giant ruby giant ruby.
But that’s not what Aladdin was thinking. Aladdin was thinking beyond what was in front of him. He saw the rubies also. The piles and piles of gold that would be more than a “king’s ransom”. But he just walked past ‘em. Straight to the lamp. Straight to the genie. Because he was smart. He saw that the coins, the precious stones, all that good stuff, it was just part of the glitter on the way to the real prize.
Life is a choice. Always a choice. And often, the choice comes down to two things: Be Aladdin. Or be a monkey.
We can be Abu, the monkey, who jumps at the first thing he sees. We could be distracted by the various jewels in this world, whether literally gold or some other distraction from the deeper things in life.
Why do you think people sacrifice family for their work? Because they hate their family? Clearly not. But when they get into monkey-mode, life is all about what’s in front of them. At first they’re working for their family. But soon, gradually, as work begins to overtake their lives, they’re sucked in. And next thing they know, they’re holding a ruby that’s melting in their hands.
Or we can be Aladdin. Remembering the deeper things. Remembering the family or any other deep thing we know is truly important. We can say no to the boss just this once for our family. Or we can even say no to our children once, because we understand that our goal is their maturation, not our momentary peace from their griping.
Being Aladdin means going beyond. Seeing beyond. Knowing that where our momentary desires pulls us is just an illusion, a mirage before the true oasis.
But is it possible to go even deeper, to look further than just the next level? Maybe there’s another level?
There always is.
Think about it. Was Aladdin really going for the lamp? Was a piece of brass laying in the middle of a cave his aching desire?
One could argue it was the genie with all his wishes. A person could get practically anything he wanted with a genie like that.
But Aladdin wasn’t just anyone. He was thinking deeper. He was thinking about the princess. He realized that even the amazing powers of the genie, and the lamp that came with him, were just tools. Tools to reach his ultimate goal: the lady of his dreams.
And that’s what we have to realize: at the end of the day, even our morals, even the deepest things we learn and touch and feel are simply paths to our true and only love: Hashem.
Hashem is our princess and we are Aladdin. We need to run through the cave of life, with all its riches, all the money surrounding us, all the benefits of stopping to grab a bit, and say to ourselves, “I only want G-d.”
And even when we’ve accessed spirituality, even when we’re talking to angels during our prayers, and when we feel high from all that love for G-d, we have to realize that even that isn’t enough. We may be in the palace, talking to the higher-ups and the advisors, but we’re still not married to the princess. We’re alone until we’re one. And no matter how close we are to her, it’s never the same until we’re locked in her embrace.
To do this requires bravery, intelligence, and skill. Even Aladdin fell at first. He thought wooing the princess meant wearing fancy clothes, acting hoity toity and walking around like a big fat yaysh (existence). He got lost in his clothes, as if they were also covering his eyes.
But to be a true lover, to be a true Jew, means to pull the wool from our eyes, to push aside even the angels, even the most spiritual worlds, even Gan Eden itself, and run as fast as we can towards G-d, riding the magic carpet of Truth.
If we don’t we will, without a doubt, end up like Abu. Poor, stupid monkeys, holding what once was a fabulous jewel, but is now a melting piece of lava, burning us alive.
The choice is ours: live like a monkey, or live in holy matrimony with the princess. Don’t let the jewels distract you on the way. She’s the only ruby that will last past tomorrow.