I think I travel light. I learned this tip from my husband, who is quite “the traveler.” Not just because he travels a lot, but because he’s a pro at it. He goes to Asia for 15 days at a time with just a backpack and carry-on roller bag (complete with tefillin, kosher snacks and Shabbat garb).

This summer, I attempted to impress him with my minimalist packing skills when I planned a vacation for our family of six. As I tried to balance his proclivity forI tried to impress him with my minimalist packing skills light travel with my irrational desire to have the perfect outfit for each child per day (and then some), I was reminded of a poignant Chassidic story about a devoted follower of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism ...

The Baal Shem Tov recommended a Jew visiting him that he stop by the town of Mezeritch on his way back home. There he should visit a man by the name of Reb DovBer.

When the Jew finally found Reb DovBer in Mezeritch, he was shocked by his “minimalist” lifestyle. The bench that sat the children whom Reb DovBer taught became a table to eat and later transformed into beds for the family to sleep on.

He was greeted warmly, however, and sat in Reb DovBer’s humble abode sharing wonderful words from their esteemed Rebbe. But after a while, the guest couldn’t contain himself and asked his host: “Reb DovBer, how do you live like this? Where’s all your stuff?”

In typical Jewish fashion, Reb DovBer replied with a question: “And where’s all your stuff?”

To which the guest replied in shock: “Why, me? I’m just a traveler passing through! I don’t shlep everything I own.”

"But aren’t we all travelers in this world?” said Rabbi DovBer gently. “At home? Oh yes ... At home, it is a different matter altogether ... ”

As I attempted to justify squeezing one more “indispensable” outfit inside our luggage, I wondered ... Am I as focused on, and attached to, those “possessions” that can’t be measured in the physical realm? Do I expend the same amount of energy on the mitzvot that I’m here to perform as I do on other stuff? Do I greet everyone with a smile? Do I pray with intention—not just for myself, but for others? Do I make sure to consistently share of what I have been given?

I’m the impertinent guest in the story! True, I’m more “into” my stuff than my husband is. I can easily get distracted by, and even attached to, my material possessions!

However annoyed I was by this awareness and the “travel light” business, I realized that I admire my husband’s level of clarity as to what’s really important in life. It goes well beyond his packing skills. Which brings me to this cryptic passage in Talmud.

It tells the story of Rabbi Yehoshua and his son, Rav Yosef, who became ill, even on the verge of death. After his recovery, Rabbi Yehoshua asked his son: “What did you see when you were dying?” Rav Yosef said: “I saw an inverted world. Those above were below and those below were above.” Rabbi Yehoshua replied: “My son, you have seen a clear world.” (Bava Basra 10b)

What does an inverted world mean? Perhaps the things that seem to matter in this worldAm I living my life as though I’m a traveler passing through? are insignificant in the next world, while the things regarded as insignificant in this world are of the utmost value in the next world. As Reb DovBer taught, we are all travelers on a journey, passing through on the way to a “clear world.” Our possessions and the physical reality that surround us are but temporary. And perhaps what really matters during this journey is not the titles, accolades or possessions we accumulate, but the good we create. Perhaps our real possessions are getting stored, and accounted for, in the next world.

In Ethics of Our Fathers, it says, “The world is like an antechamber before the World to Come. Prepare yourself in the antechamber so that you may enter the banquet hall.” (Chapter 4).

Will the collection that I’ve amassed in the chamber warrant my entry into the banquet hall? Am I living my life as though I’m a traveler passing through?

As to my summer packing? More than a few of the “indispensables” came back untouched. Maybe I’ll figure out how to travel more efficiently by next summer. (In fact, maybe I should start packing now ...)