I'm very rich. That I never hear.

I'm very humble. That I never hear.

I'm very spiritual. Ah, at that I cringe very often.

Why don't they realize spirituality is humility?

Truth is, when they say "spiritual" they mean abstract: a quest for the unnoticed, the unstated, the uncommon.

But spirituality, in that definition, is not something inherently good, worthy or desirable.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (known in Yiddish as the Freidiker Rebbe) was unimpressed by yeshiva bochurim, the boys in yeshiva, who opened the refrigerator just to see what was inside.

When I first heard that, at about fifteen, I pretty much dismissed that judgment as too severe for me to take very seriously. Now, with a waist that is doing its own thing, I think it's just plain healthy. Self-control is the root of good health just as surely as no self-control leads to ill health. And when you stand in front of an open fridge you are inviting a lack of self control. (I wonder what the Rebbe would say about me in front of a smorgasbord / buffet / Viennese table . . . this list isn't getting shorter and my mind is going elsewhere...)

But reflecting in front of the open fridge is more than just bad health; it's desensitizing. It's degrading. Dehumanizing. Its desensitizing because if I'm considering if I want Dijon better than mild, on the kaiser instead of on the rye, with the turkey rather than the pastrami, than that is where my mind is, that is where I am, that is where I am going, that is what I will be, that is all I can be. My lack of self control is evident to most folk when my waist lets them in on the secret. The Rebbe did not need to see waists to see any effect; he saw souls.

Picture for a minute Moses, Moses coming down the mountain, holding the two big tablets, walking cautiously, reverently. He nears the people and whispers, "With mayo, hold the tomato."

There are those who see Moses in us, in each of us, and they see the shande, the ess post nisht, the (and this will not translate smoothly into English, it just won't translate smoothly out of Yiddish) "it does not become you." You're Moses, and you are letting me down.

Moses couldn't have been Moses had he stood in front of the fridge; Shimon will not be Shimon if he stands in front of the fridge.

Animal! In English the word means wild and cruel. "Such an animal," we say, referring to a scoundrel.

Behaima! It translates into animal but in Yiddish behaima connotes neither cruelty nor sadism. A behaima is a glutton. A healthy animal is a glutton. A healthy cow stands in front of the trough. A behaima is not a healthy person.

So when I hear someone describe whoever (themselves?) as spiritual I ask, Where? Why? Do I just not see it, or when I hear the word spiritual am I thinking holy? Am I expecting someone holy, and that is why I am disappointed?

There is an innate, assumed heroism in holiness; there is none in spirituality. The holy are often astonishingly earthy; the spiritual may attempt to be. They often come across as just plain coarse.

"Forbid yourself what is permitted you," goes the Chassidic teaching. And it is taking me a long time to realize that it is not talking about simple asceticism, denying. Because that stuff is easy, the just not having. It is also meaningless.

Not having because it is getting in the way of doing something else, from being something else, because that is the road I want to travel less and this, this, this is the road I want to travel more! Now that is something that is holy, that is heroic, beautiful, everlasting, solid, formidable and enduring.

I close the fridge; I open the Talmud. It has waited patiently for me for a very long time.