|New Year inspiration at Shambala|
It is that time of year again. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the festive holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah are right around the corner. We look forward with excitement towards the upcoming celebrations while simultaneously feeling a sense of awe as we contemplate the year gone by and the year that lies ahead.
It’s a time for introspection and self analysis and a time to make New Year’s resolutions and commitments. Where does one look for inspiration? The synagogue, a Torah class, a well written book seem to be likely places.
How about Shambala (a popular furniture store in Hong Kong)? You wouldn’t think that it would make it to the list. However, that is precisely the place where my family and I were inspired a number of years ago.
On a Sunday morning a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah, we embarked on a trip to spend our morning at Ap Lei Chau – a Furniture Wholesale District in Hong Kong. There are lots of stores, lots of choices and lots of stairs.
Not surprisingly, our first stop was Shambala. Besides being owned by a member of the Jewish community, Shambala has a reputation for its good pricing and beautiful designs. We were looking for a specific piece of furniture and had a particular budget in mind. It didn’t take long before we spotted something that we liked in the back of the store. Unfortunately, the price was not within our range. So we continued on.
We ventured up and down the staircases and in and out of the lifts. Hours later, we had still not found anything that suited our needs. So we made our way back to Shambala to see if, perhaps, we would splurge and pay the price that was being asked.
To our surprise the friendly saleslady met us at the door. It seemed as if she was waiting for us to return. “What was the price you had wanted to pay?” she asked. We reminded her. “Okay” she said. “The furniture is yours.”
Now, of course, we were suspicious. Clearly we had shopped around and didn’t find anything else. Why was she being so accommodating? “There must be something wrong with the piece” we surmised. We checked it over and, lo and behold, we found none of the nicks or scratches that we expected.
I had to ask the question. “Tell me, why did you agree to come down in price?”
“Simple” she said. “When you were in the store a few hours ago, our boss, Mr. Robbins happened to be watching the store from his home by webcam. When you walked out he immediately called to find out why the Rabbi had walked out empty-handed. He instructed that if you were to return we should sell the furniture to you at the price that you had offered.”
I was dumbstruck. Not because I got the furniture for my price. I was amazed that Mr. Robbins could see exactly what was going on in his store and control the outcome while sitting miles away.
This was a microcosmic example from our macrocosmic reality.
Our sages tell us in Pirkei Avot that “Know what is above you. An eye that sees, an ear that hears and everthing is recorded in a book.” Do we take that seriously? Somehow, we have a hard time actually feeling that everything we do is seen from above.
Somehow, we have a hard time believing that our actions actually make a difference.
That morning in Shambala the message hit home in a very realistic way. If my actions in Shambala were transmitted miles away by some little webcam hidden away in the ceiling of the store, then certainly my every action is recorded and watched by the All-mighty up above. And those actions, too, make a difference - a difference much greater than getting a discount on a piece of furniture.
How different the world would be if we believed that our actions were seen and recorded? How different the world would be if we believed that what we did in our small corner of the world could affect those that we could not see? Let’s start believing it and let’s start making the difference.
Wishing you all an inspiring and uplifting High Holyday season and may all of our acts of goodness motivate G-d to give us the ultimate bargain – a year of peace and health in our community and abroad.