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    I was once speaking
    with somebody suffering
    from an eating disorder.
    After hearing about the
    terrible condition that
    this patient was going
    through, I observed that
    this person had “a backward switch” –
    something in the body’s system that worked
    the precise opposite than the way it is
    supposed to. Hashem created a “switch” in
    our body that gets turned on when we need
    food – making us feel hungry – and then
    turns off when we are full. For patients
    suffering from an eating disorder, this switch
    doesn’t get turned on. Their body needs
    food, but they don’t feel like eating.
    There are many other kinds of “backward
    switches,” as well. Some people have a
    backward sensitivity switch – they get
    insulted when they hear something that isn’t
    insulting. Some people have a backward
    anger switch – they get angry at things that
    really aren’t a big deal. Some people have a
    backward anxiety switch – they get nervous
    in situations that aren’t threatening.
    And, of course, many of us have the
    opposite kind of “backward switch”
    regarding food – we feel we need food when
    we really don’t. The body does not need any
    more food, but we feel that more food is
    good for us, when in reality, it is harmful.
    An even more common “backward

    switch” has to do with money. We always
    want more money. We never feel we have
    Parashat Ki-Tissa tells the story of the sin
    of the הזהב עגל – the golden calf. Where did
    Beneh Yisrael get the idea to make a golden
    calf and bow down to it? Where did such a
    notion come from? The Rabbis explain that
    at the time of the splitting of the sea, Beneh
    Yisrael were shown a vision of the Heavenly
    Throne. On each of the four corners of the
    throne, there is an image. On the northern
    side, there is an image of an ox. The north is
    associated with wealth, and so Beneh Yisrael
    concluded that in order to earn wealth, they
    need to worship that species – an ox. And so
    they made a calf, a young ox.
    When Beneh Yisrael left Egypt, they
    suddenly became exceedingly wealthy. They
    took the Egyptians’ possessions with them
    when they left, and then, at the shores of the
    sea, they collected the precious jewels that
    decorated the chariots and that now washed
    ashore. Wealth became so central that they
    ended up worshipping a golden image.
    Wealth is a wonderful blessing. The
    problem is when we turn money into a “god,”
    the main thing that our lives revolve around.
    I tell my students that money is like our
    left leg. Is our left leg important? Of course
    it is. Should we do everything we can to
    protect our left leg? Of course we should.

    Would we suffer terribly if we didn’t have a
    left leg? Of course we would. But this does
    not mean that we should be preoccupied all
    day with our left leg. We also need many
    other things.
    I was once speaking to a hard-working,
    successful businessman whose oldest child
    was getting married. It was several days
    before the wedding, so I asked him how the
    last-minute preparations were going.
    “Oh, the wedding,” he said. “Gosh, I
    haven’t really had time to think about it. I’ve
    been so busy with work.”
    This obsession with work and business is
    the הזהב עגל of our generation. There is
    certainly nothing wrong at all with wanting
    to be wealthy, or with working hard to attain
    that goal. The problem becomes when it
    takes over, when it takes center stage, and
    other things – like a child’s wedding – get
    pushed backstage.
    The “backward button” has become an
    especially difficult challenge in our day and
    age, due to the smartphone. People today are
    always working, even if they’re not in the
    office. At all hours, on weekends, on
    vacations, wherever they are…they’re
    dealing with work texts and emails. Our
    instinct tells us that more hard work is always
    better, when in truth it isn’t. Some things are
    more important, and we need to give those
    things the time and attention they deserve.

    We need to know when to turn off the switch
    that causes us to try to earn more money.
    This Shabbat we read Parashat Parah, the
    section that deals with the אדומה פרה ,the
    special cow that was slaughtered and then
    burned, and its ashes were used for
    purification. The Rabbis teach us that the
    אדומה פרה was performed to atone for the עגל
    הזהב .Just as a mother cleans up the mess
    made by her child, so does the אדומה פרה
    “clean” the “mess” of the calf, the young
    .עגל הזהב the – cow
    Let us use this opportunity to correct our
    modern-day golden calf, and learn how to
    turn off the switch, and recognize that there