A bad odor and a holy purpose

Posted on 28 July 2011 by LeslieM

From the time I was a little Rabbi … I mean, a little boy … I was taught that everything that G-d put on this Earth can have a very holy purpose. Of course, it often appears the reverse is just as true. Using the free will with which we have been endowed by our Creator, we also have the ability to take something and use it for evil.

I guess one of the easiest examples would be the creation of Atomic Energy, which also brought about the Bomb. The same creation, the same use of man’s ingenuity, and we come up with a good thing and a bad thing. Then again, perhaps the day will come when we will find a holy and creative purpose for the bomb rather than using it as a weapon of mass destruction.

Then there is nuclear energy, which also seems to have been used for two very different purposes and, yet, we find that if the good purpose is used and a plant has a leak, well, then it doesn’t appear to be so good … does it?

Still, I am a big believer in what I learned early on in life … that everything, even the things we consider to be the foulest of the foul, can have a good and holy purpose. We just have to be wise enough to figure out what that purpose might be.

I found a great example of that just a couple of weeks ago in a fascinating news story. So let me ask you something, when you were at the height of your fitness level, did you ever put on a pair of those white athletic socks and a pair of sneakers and head off for a long walk or a jog? And, if you did, did you ever have a time when it started to rain but you just kept walking anyway? When you finally got back home, you took off your sneakers and if anyone was near you, they took one whiff of those socks you were wearing and yelled out, “PHEW” or “P.U.”

Now, I have to tell you, as much as I believe that everything on this Earth can be of benefit, I never had the ingenuity to come up with a benefit to dirty, stinky white socks. But I guess I wasn’t using all the creative power that G-d blessed me with and, that’s okay, because someone else was using theirs and they found a very holy use for … that’s right … dirty, stinky socks.

I don’t know if you are aware of it or not, but malaria still takes the lives of close to 100,000 people each year from across the globe and most of the lives it takes are children’s. Malaria is carried by mosquitoes infected with the disease and when one of them bites you, look out.

Well, researchers in Tanzania found that mosquitoes are attracted to the wonderful aroma of dirty, stinky socks. That’s right, just as we can’t resist walking by a bakery without getting that whiff that draws us in, those socks, those dirty, stinky socks draw the mosquitoes in like … well, like flies.

So if you put up mosquito traps and have a batch of smelly socks on them, it lures them much the same way a piece of cheese may lure a mouse into a trap. So don’t be surprised if one day you see a headline that reads “Dirty, Smelly Socks Save the Lives of 100,000 Children.” May it come to pass and may each of us use our ingenuity to find holiness in the most unlikely of places. Let us say, Amen.

Shalom My Friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

 

Rabbi Ezring is a Hospice Chaplain and Member of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains. He also provides Professional Pastoral Care Services to a number of health centers in Broward County. 

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