Imagine a man who, at age thirty-five, becomes blind. For the next ten years, he does his best to reconstruct his life, but now without sight. Being a fighter, he struggles to create a productive life for

himself, and in a real sense he succeeds. One day, his doctor informs him of an experimental procedure that, if successful, would enable him to see again. He is both frightened and exuberant. If it works, he regains his sight. If it fails, he might die.

himself, and in a real sense he succeeds. One day, his doctor informs him of an experimental procedure that, if successful, would enable him to see again. He is both frightened and exuberant. If it works, he regains his sight. If it fails, he might die.

He gathers together his family to talk it over. After much debate he announces, “I am going ahead with it.”

The operation is scheduled. The long-awaited day arrives. Paralyzed with dread, he is wheeled toward the operating room. He is sedated, and he sleeps through the ten-hour operation.

When he wakes up, his first thought is to open his eyes. He prepares himself for the moment when he will find out how he will spend the rest of his life. He musters his courage and flexes his eyelids. They don’t move! In a panic, he cries out, “NURSE!”

The nurse calmly explains that his bandages won’t come off for at least three more days. So he waits. Each moment is like a decade, each hour a lifetime. Finally, it is time. With his family gathered around, with the doctors and nurses at his side, the surgeon begins removing the gauze. The first bandage comes off, then the second. The surgeon says, “Open your eyes.” He does.

And he sees!

For the first time in ten years, he looks out and experiences the sights of this world — and he is struck by it all. Struck by the brilliance of colors and shapes; moved by the beauty and magnificence of all that is now in front of him. He looks out the window and sees a meadow, covered with beautiful, green grass. He sees flowers in full bloom. He looks up and sees a clear blue sky. He sees people, faces, loved ones who have been only images in his mind — the sight of his own children whom he hasn’t seen in ten years. Tears well in his eyes as he speaks, “Doctor, what can I say? What can I ever do to repay you for what you have given me, for this magnificent gift of sight? Thank you!”

This type of emotion, this extreme joy and sense of appreciation, is something we should feel regularly. The feeling of elation that this man felt when he regained his sight is something that we can feel on a daily basis — if we go through the process of training ourselves to feel it. We have this most precious, unparalleled gift called sight, and it is something that we are supposed to stop and think about. Not just once in a lifetime, not even once a year, but every day. A part of our spiritual growth is learning to appreciate the gifts that we have. One of the blessings said in the morning thanks God for this most wonderful gift of sight. It was designed to be said with an outpouring of emotion.

We humans are a curious breed. We can have treasures for years, not once thinking of the wealth we have been given, not once stopping to appreciate it, never taking a moment to be thankful for it,

until something happens and we lose that gift. Then, it’s, “God, why me? Of all the people on the planet, why did You pick me?” Till then there wasn’t a moment of reflection. Not one thank-you. Not one word of appreciation. Not even a recognition of it being a gift. Once it is gone, the complaints find their home.

Unfortunately, we don’t take the time to think about the many gifts we have. We become so accustomed to them that we almost don’t know they exist. How many times do we stop and appreciate that we have legs with which to walk and hands with which to hold? How many mornings do we wake up and just take the time to recognize that we have our health and well-being? How much richer is our life because we have eyes with which to see, fingers with which to feel, ears with which to hear, a tongue with which to taste, and a nose with which to smell?

Each of these senses was created by God, created with much wisdom and forethought, created for a specific intention so that we can live a fuller, richer, more complete life — so that we should enjoy our stay on this planet. There is so much about this world that we live in that was custom-designed, specifically for our enjoyment. But it takes focus and training to appreciate the riches we possess.

As an example, let’s take a step back from life as we know it and imagine the very moment that Hashem created the world.

Picture, if you will, vast emptiness. Nothing. The absolute absence of anything.

This isn’t easy to do. I remember when my daughter was six years old and we were discussing Bereishis (Creation), there was one issue that she couldn’t come to terms with.

“Abba,” she said to me, “I understand that before Hashem created the world there was nothing, not even light and dark, but what color was it?”

The difficulty she was feeling was that we are so used to the world as it is, that the concept of before creation is difficult for us

to fathom. The idea of the absence of anything — before there was a world, before there was even matter or space or any substance to hold it in — is very difficult for us corporeal beings to deal with. We keep falling back to our way of viewing things in a physical setting, and absolute void has no place in our world.

Still, let’s try for a moment to envision a vast, empty nothingness. There is no space, no matter, there isn’t even time, because time only exists in a physical world. And creation begins — out of nothing, because there is nothing; from nowhere, because there is no place. At this absolute first moment in time, God brings forth matter, the very building blocks of creation, then darkness and light — not even separated, but intermingled, a patch of light here, a flash of darkness there. Next comes the heavens and earth, then the planets and stars, the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all of the animals of the earth, and then on the final day, at almost the last moment of creation, man.

Every part of creation has to be thought out. There are no givens. There is no imitating or accepting the status quo, because before creation there is nothing to imitate or use as a model. Every part and every element of this world has to be planned and designed from scratch. When we take this huge leap of understanding, we can begin to see the abundance of goodness that God has bestowed upon the world.

Let’s start with something basic — color. The world is fantastically rich in color, with so many gradations, shades, and hues.

Color is something that we take for granted. Of course, there is color in the world; it was always there.

God created this thing that we call color, and He put it in the world for a particular reason: so that we should enjoy what we see. The world didn’t have to be this way. If God was only concerned with functionality — with creating a world that could be used — black and white would have sufficed. We would still be able to recognize

objects and people, even shadows and depth, within the spectrum of the gray scale. If you have ever seen a TV program from the early 1960s, it was just that — black and white — and it did a fine job. You could still experience the full human drama within the gray scale. But it lacked a dimension — it was flat, and so it wasn’t as enjoyable. Hashem wants us to enjoy this world, so He created the entity called color.

Look out on a fall day and see the trees in their glory, the seemingly endless array of reds, oranges, and brilliant yellows form a magnificent tapestry stretching across the mountains. Look out at the sun as it sets and you can see the most radiant show of color, the full spectrum of an artist’s palette, painted against a powdery gray backdrop.

If the world was created for practical reasons only, all of the beauty that we witness wouldn’t have to be. God put it all here, from magnificent floral scenes, to exotic sea life; from the glory of the night sky, to the clear aqua green of the ocean; from a flower in bloom, to the plume of a jungle parrot; all of the pomp and ceremony of a sunrise — a world created in Technicolor. Why create it that way? Why not make it all black and white? Keep it plain, keep it simple. Why go through all of the effort? The answer is for one reason — so that man should enjoy. God did all of this for us so that we should look out at the world and enjoy its beauty.

This is only one of the pleasures that we enjoy but take for granted. What about food? Food is something that we need to maintain our energy levels and health. If its only function were nutrition and nothing more, then all the foods that we eat should taste like soggy cardboard. Yet they don’t. There are so many different and varied types of foods, each with its own unique flavor, texture, and aroma. Why? Why not make it all taste like oatmeal? Again, for one reason: so that man should enjoy. So that eating, which we have to do, shouldn’t be a chore but rather delightful. Taste is something that God added solely for our benefit — for our pleasure

An awful lot of thought went into creating the different foods we eat. I once heard Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, describe an orange. He said that when you peel an orange, inside there are wedges. If you look closely, each of these wedges is surrounded by a thin membrane. When you pull back the membrane and look inside, you will see many tiny sacs. Inside each of those sacs is the juice of the orange. Now why did God create an orange in that manner, with thousands of little sacks? The reason is because it further enhances our enjoyment. Did you ever see one of those children’s candies with a liquid center? They’re advertised with the slogan, “Bite in for a burst of flavor.” When you bite into an orange, you also get a burst of flavor. Because the juice of the orange is contained within those many small sacs, when you bite into it, there is a release of juice in the form of a burst, and that adds to the enjoyment of eating the orange. God created those sacs so that there would be another dimension to our enjoyment. The sensation of eating an orange would be different without this feature. It still would have tasted delicious, but this is an additional aspect that God wanted us to enjoy, so He designed an orange in this way.

Did you ever wonder why Delicious apples are red on the outside? It’s for the same reason that laundry detergents come packaged in bright colors. Procter & Gamble spent millions of dollars on research to determine which color has the greatest eye appeal. They have done countless studies proving that putting Tide in a bright, neon-orange container will result in more sales. Consumers prefer it — it has more eye appeal — and shoppers will reach for it before the other detergents. Cheerios has been in that same yellow box for sixty years now! Studies show that that shade of yellow sells more boxes of cereal than any other color. People simply like it.

So too, God made some apples red because they are nicer to look at, and that makes the process of eating an apple more enjoyable. As any chef will explain, the presentation adds much to the enjoyment of the

dish. Therefore, God designed that the foods we eat have eye appeal so as to enhance our experience of eating. Keep in mind that food is only needed to provide nourishment. Any other feature we find is there because God had a specific reason for it; many of those were created simply so that we should have greater pleasure and enjoyment.

Here is another example: what happens when you bite into an apple? You don’t get the same burst of flavor that you get when you bite into an orange. You get a crunch. Why? Why not design all fruit the same? The reason why an apple is crunchy is because it is fun to crunch on food. That’s why your local supermarket has an entire aisle, seventy-five feet long, floor to ceiling, stocked with breakfast cereals, each one bragging that they’re crispier then the next: “Crispy,” “Crispier,” “Crispiest,” “Ours is so crispy we even include ear plugs!”

Why is each food manufacturer trying to get you to think that their cereal is the crispiest? Because it’s fun to bite into something crunchy; we like that sensation when we eat. So General Mills makes their cereals crunchy, and when God made apples, He designed the cells to form hard walls so that when we bite into it we get a texture that provides a crunch. It didn’t have to be that way. God designed it that way so that we should enjoy it.

For the life of me I still can’t figure out why bananas are mushy! But I guess sometimes some people are in the mood for that soft, squishy texture.

What about aroma? Have you ever found yourself in a restaurant, and as the waiter brought out your favorite dish, your mouth began watering at the sight of it? But you had a cold, and when you began eating it, somehow it didn’t taste right. You just couldn’t enjoy it. Scientists now recognize that most of our sense of taste comes through smell. When God created food, He added this dimension of wonderful aromas to enhance our taste experience. Each of the different foods that we enjoy not only has a different taste and

texture, it also has a markedly different smell, which contributes to our total enjoyment.

Did you ever notice that when you peel an orange, as you break the outer skin, a fine mist of juice sprays up? The next time you peel one, pay attention and you will see that the skin has tiny bubbles in it. When they break open, they create that fine mist that emits the delicate aroma of an orange. Why did God go through all of the effort to design those microencapsulated specks of juice in the skin? For one reason, so that when you peel an orange you will smell the fragrance and hunger for it. When you hunger for food, your enjoy ment of it is increased.

It wasn’t enough that the flavor of the orange was made so special with a mix of sweetness and tang, and that the wedges were made up of little sacs to provide that “burst of flavor.” Maybe we wouldn’t be quite hungry enough, so God designed these tiny bubbles in the skin to further increase our enjoyment. It didn’t have to be that way. To get our daily dose of vitamin C, we could have done just as well without all of the enhancements. But God wanted to add pleasure to our eating.

We were given so many different and varied forms of food. From roast beef to chicken, to hot dogs, to avocados, to yogurt, to bananas, to pickles, to olives, to strawberries, to salmon — so many assorted spices and flavors, all different and varied. If you look at a typical salad, you will see so many different shapes, textures, and flavors: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, mushrooms — each one distinct, each one contributing its unique qualities to the whole. Why? Why create them that way? Why not make them all brown like beans and taste like potatoes? The reason is because that wouldn’t have been fun. The food we eat comes in so many assorted flavors and textures, each one appealing to a different element of our tastes. God preplanned and created all of this for us to enjoy.

Yet how often do we actually take the time to enjoy the foods that we eat? How much attention do we pay to taking pleasure from the sights that we see? It takes training and concentration to consciously choose to enjoy the life that we lead. If we do, we will see a tremendous amount of detail and concern that God put in for man to enjoy. And we will see an amazing demonstration of the kindness that God shows to man.

After I finished sharing these ideas, David looked up, smiling. “I have to admit,” he said, “that I have never focused on the amount of good God put in this world for us to enjoy. I certainly see how thinking about these types of things help a person live a richer, happier life…but what does this have to do with my question?”

“David,” I said, “all this brings me to an important point. May I ask you a question?” “Sure.”

“Are you happy?”