Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog
 Printer Friendly


I have had the good fortune this winter of attending a number of weddings of grandchildren in the United States. This naturally entailes traveling far distances, an experience, at my age, that no longer has the aura of glamour attached to it. Even with wheelchair and so-called VIP service present at all airports today, this is still a daunting challenge to elderly travelers, but, thank God, I have been able to navigate Ben Gurion and JFK airports successfully so far. 
However, it is the task of packing my suitcase that has exhausted and befuddled me at every instance. Invariably, I take too many things with me, and they are not the very things that I need at my destination. I am always fearful that I will not have the correct clothing with me to fit the weather conditions and/or the occasion itself. So, I take many more clothes in my suitcase than I can possibly use or wear on my trip.  This causes the suitcases to be heavier than they need to be and makes the task of later unpacking my suitcase at my destination much more burdensome. 
I should only pack into my suitcases the bare minimum of clothing and the specific things that I will really need., But that foresight and wisdom presupposes the absence of human nature, and no one should think that human nature can somehow be ignored. There is always that small nagging voice that tells us that we did not take enough ties, shirts pants, etc. in the suitcase, to protect ourselves from all exigencies that may arise. So, we keep on adding more when packing our suitcases for travel.
There are meticulous people who pack their suitcases neatly and in a very easily identified, orderly fashion.  Sadly, I do not belong to that select club. There is undoubtedly a method to my madness and chaotic method of packing, but it may not be readily visible to strangers who do not share my fevered mindset. However, now that I am aware that the security people will naturally open my suitcase and inspect its contents, my sense of embarrassment has forced me to pack my suitcase much more neatly than I did when my suitcase and its contents was no one else’s business or concern. After all, there is a luggage tag attached to the suitcase that identifies me as the owner/packer of the suitcase, and I do not want the security inspector to have the unjustified opinion that I am a complete untidy slob.
For the past few years, I now use more care and judgment, coupled with some sense of neatness when packing my suitcase. I am reminded that it may well be true what a customs inspector once told me while examining the contents of my suitcase that one’s packed suitcase reveals a great deal about its owner. If I remember correctly a story one of my beloved teachers told me is that when he arrived as a very young student at one of the leading Mussar yeshivot in Lithuania, he hung up his coat on a peg in the study hall. The coat was hanging all askew with one of the sleeves inside out.  One of the teachers in the yeshiva noticed this and came over to the young student and said quietly to him: “If this is the way that I you look on the outside, one can only wonder what turmoil exists within you on the inside!” II guess that the same idea can be said regarding packed suitcases.
There is also another nagging voice that bothers me while packing my suitcase. It warns me not to pack anything valuable in my suitcase lest the dreaded horror of lost luggage somehow befalls me. Therefore, even when I travel for a wedding, I do not necessarily take my best tie or shirt along for the trip. I know this is childish behavior on my part, but there are other areas of life where I have not yet grown up. I usually compensate for this lack of proper judgment and confidence in airline baggage handlers by purchasing another item of clothing at my destination before a wedding, or at places where I have to appear, This is certainly not a frugal way to live, but it has allowed me to accumulate, over the years, a varied and numerous quantity of good ties, all of which will eventually come back into style. But, at least my suitcase will not be weighed down by all of those ties, for at least one leg of the trip, anyway.
Shabbat shalom

Berel Wein 

Subscribe to our blog via email or RSS to get more posts like this one.