Three hermits move into a cave together. The deal is that they don’t talk more than one sentence in seven years. One morning a horse runs by the mouth of the cave.

Seven years later, the first hermit says, “That was a pretty white horse that ran by.”

Seven more years elapse, and the second hermit says, “That horse wasn't white; he was black.”

Yet another seven years go by, and the third hermit starts packing his bags. The other two look at him and he says, “If all you two are going to do is argue, then I’m leaving.”

Under the influence of the world’s major religions, many have been led to believe that spirituality translates as “shunning the physical and living an ascetic existence.” The further people distance themselves from worldliness and physicality, the closer they are to the divine.

Or so they say.

Celibacy is ideal and starvation a virtue. Or so they say . . .A man sitting atop a mountain clothed in rags, eating only the bare minimum and meditating for hours on end, impresses us as “Mr. Spiritual.” A guru who hasn’t uttered a syllable in a decade is hailed as a “holy man.” And a caveman living a BCE existence impresses us as the ultimate. Celibacy is ideal and starvation a virtue.

Or so they say.

Judaism has a very different opinion on the matter.

Let me introduce you to Nadab and Abihu, the two eldest sons of Aaron the High Priest, and supremely righteous individuals in their own right.

They enter the biblical spotlight just as the portable sanctuary for G‑d had been erected in the desert, and a fire comes down from heaven to consume the offerings on the altar.

At that moment, Nadab and Abihu are so inspired that they enter the Holy of Holies chamber of the sanctuary and burn incense “which they were not commanded.” The heavenly fire subsumes their souls, leaving their bodies perfectly intact. They die a death of passion, and one of the most awesome moments in history becomes forever colored by tragedy.

Where did they go wrong? Their wish to escape the mundane world was too extreme. Their striving to become one with the Creator was taken out of context.

Certainly, we must have a yearning and a passion for the divine, but we must balance it with the recognition that G‑d wishes that we live in this world and to work with it, not against it.

Hence we celebrate Passover, the holiday of freedom and independence, with matzah and bitter herbs. On Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, the hours spent in prayer in the synagogue are followed by a festive meal. (Not to mention the fact that a Torah lesson without bagels and lox is just not complete . . . ) This is our way.

You would think our religion was concocted by some chef . . .You would think our religion was concocted by some chef . . .

That is the Jewish way. Eyes are useful for looking at the correct things. Fame is an asset if it leads to positive things. Technology is awesome if it is channeled for holy things. Marriage is sanctified. And food is the bedrock of any Jewish ceremony.

So is Mt. Everest closest to G‑d? Well if you’re eating your kosher Shabbat meal at its 29,028-foot peak, then, hey, I guess you’re as close to G‑d as you can get . . .