("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Chaim was a very successful individual, who, like many other Orthodox Jews, worked in the garment business. After years of hard work, and help from Hashem, Chaim’s business began to expand. One store became two, two became a chain, and eventually, Chaim found himself extremely busy as the owner of one of the largest clothing store chains on the east coast. Forget about time for extended vacation, Chaim barely had time to get home to daven, eat, sleep and spend time with his family.
Of course, businesses need merchandise to sell. And in order to do the purchasing someone has to go look at the latest fashions in Europe and Asia and investigate different countries, companies and factories. Chaim was so busy, he lacked the time for this as well. Recognizing that need however, he hired buyers whose sole job was to travel to different countries and prepare different reports on the different lines and wardrobes for Chaim’s stores.
When it came time to negotiate with his buyers, Chaim wanted to charge them an hourly wage. “When you come into work, be it here or in another factory, I will pay you. But the commuting? Can’t you take care of that yourself?”
Chaim learned quickly that buyers do not work “only” on an hourly wage. He had to negotiate a business expense account and policy. He knew that he would have to pay for travel, for hotel, for food and incidental costs for those who were working for him. He was made to understand that although during travel time his buyers weren’t actually literally “working for him,” the travel was also essential to the success of Chaim’s business and it was in his interest to cover those costs as well.
The Chofetz Chaim used this parable to explain how Hashem pays us. While it is true that our whole purpose in life is to serve Him and create a Kiddush Hashem, Hashem recognizes that we also must eat, sleep, work and yes, even engage in recreational activities. However, the person who recognizes that even these activities are part of “the business” of Hashem, manages to even use the “travel” or “down” time to count as “work” time for which we are deserving of credit.
What about us? Do we agree that Judaism recognizes the value of recreation? Should there be rules about when and where and how much “down time” should be spent away from obvious Avodas Hashem (service of Hashem)? What would these rules be?
Are there limits to recreation or "down" time? What is a healthy balance of rigorous Mitzvos, Learning, Davening-style of Avodas Hashem and a balance of "other" pursuits in daily life?
Moreover, how can we utilize our “recreation time” as Avodas Hashem?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.