Rav Avigdor Miller on The Great Test of Luxuries 

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Q:
Why does Hashem provide us with so many luxuries that are not necessary for mankind’s wellbeing, when all they really do is keep people busy with things that aren’t important? 

A:
Hakodosh Boruch Hu is testing us and giving us opportunities to waste our lives. Mankind has been placed into this world in order to be tested. And there’s no way around it.

Now, there are two ways of being tested. One is if you’re going to commit something that’s against the spirit or the letter of the Torah. That’s one test.

But there is a second test, a test that many people are unaware of. And that is, are you going to let your life go by without achievement. And the second test is more crucial than the first. If a person does a sin, he can atone for the sin. Even in Gehenim, you’ll have the opportunity for atonement. A sin can be fixed.

But if a person fails to accomplish, for that he can never atone. מעוות לא יוכל לתקון – “It’s a twisted thing that can never be straightened” (Koheles 1:15).  Not accomplishing, that’s an opportunity that goes lost forever. You can never gain the opportunity to accomplish if you failed to do so in this world. You can’t gain atonement for not accomplishing. Gehenim won’t give you any mitzvos. It will just wash off the stains of עבירות that you picked up in this world. But it will not give you any reason to go to Gan Eden. To live in the World to Come you must have accomplishment, you must have positive achievement.

Now, Hashem makes this great test of achievement even more difficult by giving us things to do. That’s part of the test. So when you see a place that sells sailboats, it’s attractive, and you think of sailing the river on Sunday morning, going fishing. Nothing wrong; there’s no sin in going fishing. But it’s a way of ruining your life. It’s a complete ruination. You have one day in the week besides Shabbos when you can accomplish something, and you’re sitting in a sailboat, fishing your life away. You’re wasting your life. You want exercise?! Take a walk for an hour, and then utilize the rest of your day. There’s so much to do!

So Hakodosh Boruch Hu gives people places to go to, and boxing rings, and airplane travel. That’s why all the travel stores are busy selling you garbage. That’s what a travel ticket is, garbage. It’s nothing at all; just a waste of your life. It’s just a test. Even going to Eretz Yisroel, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Who needs you there?! You’re wasting the precious time that Hashem has allotted you.

Today everybody is busy. Running around from one place to another. And they’re failing in this great test. Because wasting your time is the greatest sin that a man can accomplish, because you’ll never get another chance. In all eternity, this is your one single opportunity to make something out of yourself. And so, when you kill time, you’re killing yourself.

And so, Hakodosh Boruch Hu gives one opportunity after another. And they’re all tests. He invents more and more things; TV, automobiles for traveling on Sundays, fishing rods, and baseball. And even on Shabbos, people loaf around. They read newspapers, and sit around and loaf and talk, and waste their lives.

The greatest sadness is when life passes by and nothing was accomplished. Although Hakodosh Boruch Hu does give us happiness in this world to a very big extent, we’re not here in this world just to be happy. That’s not the achievement of life. The achievement of this world is that you make accomplishments in the knowledge of Hashem, in Awareness of Him, in thinking like Him. And you have to study how to get it. By learning Torah you certainly approach closer to this goal, but don’t think that that’s enough. You must know how to learn Torah.

The achievement of yiras Shomayim, of emunah, of believing in Hashem and being aware of Him, of always being grateful to Him – is a very, very necessary function. And you cannot dodge it. The time will come, when our days will be over, and we’re going to come before the great tribunal, and they’ll ask us, “Did you engage in this study? Did you learn about Me? Did you use your gift of free-will when you had before you such a wonderful world of lessons, lessons in the sky, lessons on the earth, and lessons in the Torah? Did you utilize them?”

So you’ll say, “I was busy driving my family around in the car. For my vacation I was in the country, and I did this and I did that. I was traveling, and I was on the phone, and I had no time.” No time to utilize his life properly! He wasted his time in this world with all of the luxuries that were provided to him.

And so, a sinner is to be pitied even less than a man who wasted his life. Because the man who wastes the opportunity of life – he’s too busy to accomplish – he’s the real failure. And that’s the answer for most of the inventions, and most of the luxuries, we have today. Even the telephone is a glorious way to waste your life. You’re being tested. Will life pass you by and one day you’ll realize that you accomplished nothing? It will be a terrible sadness. And it’ll be too late. Therefore, if you want an explanation for the complexity of modern life, that’s one of the answers.
TAPE # 789 (June 1990)