Yay! My package came in the mail. Inside are two scarves. Or "mobius scarves," as their manufacturer calls them. Because who can resist an accessory that claims to know something about non-Euclidean geometry? Now people who want to appear intelligent no longer need to wear pocket protectors. Math nerds, too, can be chic.1

Indeed, these scarves are lovely. They have a raggedy sort of polish to them, like fabric necklaces. They are exactly what I needed.

But oops, they are not quite the colors I like to wear. They are kind of bright. Like Playdoh, or birthday cake lettering. I am selective about colors, and I especially like not to be mistaken for a traffic light.

What to do, what to do?

Maybe I can dye them. Now that's an idea! I quickly start Googling professional fabric dyers. I discover that cotton and linen are the most dye-able of fabrics, which is splendid because cotton and linen are exactly what these scarves are made of.

I call my friend who has an interest in these things. I email her a link with pictures of the scarves so she can understand how simultaneously right and wrong they are, and help me map out a plan for scarf rehabilitation. "We really do have an emergency brewing," she agrees. Let the conference begin.

Finally I find the fabric-dyer website of my dreams. Apparently, they can do anything. In their photo gallery, white lace curtains are reborn a delectable orange. A brown suede belt is reinvented in black.

"How much do they charge?" my friend asks.

Well, I explain relevantly, the scarves were on sale. They were originally $39 each, but I got mine for only $9. That gives me a $60 budget for modifications.

People can organize their budgets any way they want, but I The sheer volume of things it is possible to not do all at once is staggering. personally ascribe to the accounting theory that a penny saved is a penny earned. Obviously a return counts as profit, but so does a purchase never made. Sometimes, when in need of quick profit, I just drive to the mall and go home.

But back to the crisis at hand.

This website is fascinating. "They are fabric fixers to the stars!" I enthuse to my friend. "It says here: 'We can get your garment back to you in 24 hours.'" We are suitably impressed. Maybe I really will get these things dyed, someday.

"Well, it's been great chatting," we both say. It is time to go to sleep. But first I must pay my phone bill. I use the $60 I haven't just spent on dyeing, of course.

I go to sleep, but my sleeping brain continues to calculate. There are probably more than $60 floating around there to be spent, because I never found out how much the dye job would actually cost. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't spend close to $100.

This brings me to something that has long engrossed me: the concept of not doing. The sheer volume of things it is possible to not do all at once is staggering.

For example, just while lying here asleep, here is a partial list of the many things I am not doing:

  • I am not reading a book.
  • I am not calling my aunt in Australia.
  • I am not training a dolphin.

Opportunity to not do calls to me from all over the place; my eyes leap hither and thither. (Or maybe this is what they call REM sleep?).

It occurs to me that these horizons of not doing that I am finding so dream-like and enticing have a Torah parallel. An important part of the Torah is a list of 365 things not to do. They are crucial to Jewish observance, and not doing them accomplishes appropriately staggering things in the spiritual realms.

Now, that’s a reason for a sense of satisfaction that does not depend on having accomplished anything, which I am always in the market for. As our Sages say: “One who passively abstains from sin is rewarded as though he had actively performed a mitzvah”(Kiddushin 39b).

Which means, according the author of the Tanya, that “one should rejoice in one’s compliance with a ‘don’t’ just as one does when performing an actual positive precept” (Tanya, ch. 27).

Eventually, it is morning again.