The old Honda was not sounding well. It was making this scary rattling noise every time he accelerated, like an old man with emphysema. And the repair to the power steering last month had been pricier than expected. Even the paint job was starting to peel (his wife had originally nicknamed the car Carl, but now she just called it Rusty).
It was time.
Kenny didn’t want to get rid of his Civic. When he first bought it he was single, and now he had a wife and two children. It was like an old friend. But all good things must come to an end. And the next repair could be a fortune. It had given him eleven years and one hundred and thirty thousand miles. That would have to be enough.
The salesperson at Honda of Tenafly had been very helpful. Lynn had shown him the Civic LX, the base model with the double overhead cam engine and 158 horsepower, but Kenny wanted more. He had read in Car and Driver that the EX-T version came with a turbocharger that offered 174 horsepower, and he wanted a car with a little pep. It also had a deck lid spoiler and fog lights. Kenny had a good job and earned a nice salary. He figured it was OK to step up a little bit. After all, it was a Honda Civic, not a Maserati Ghibli.
But then he took the test drive. That was a big mistake. Because Lynn did not put him behind the wheel of just any Civic EX-T. No, she sat him down in the one with the leather seats. They were firm. They had excellent lumbar support. They had four-way power adjustment.
Did I mention that they were heated?
Kenny loved the car. The engine had some power. The cornering was excellent. But he really loved the seats. They were awesome. He felt like they had made them just for him.
In his conversation with Lynn after the test drive--you know, the one where the salesperson tries to close the deal--he nonchalantly asked how much more the leather seats were, just for arguments sake.
The number was big. $1500. Kenny wasn’t sure he could justify the expense, even if he could afford it. He smiled at Lynn’s final offer on the Civic, thanked her profusely, and despite her firm urging that he give a down payment before he left the dealership, Kenny told her that he would have to present the whole thing to “the boss” before he made any final decision.
Melissa was deeply involved with her laptop when Kenny walked through the door.
“What? Oh, hi Kenny. I was just finishing up my notes for my presentation tonight. How did it go with the dealer? Did you come home with Rusty or some saucy new dish?”
“No, Carl is still in our driveway. But I wanted to talk to you about my conversation with the salesperson.”
“Is this going to cost me money?”
“That’s the topic I had in mind.”
“Uh oh. Last time we had a conversation like this we got the big screen TV. You know, the big, big, big screen TV.”
“Very funny. It’s not that big.”
“I just know that when I watch it I somehow feel smaller. You be the judge.”
“Extremely amusing, Melissa.”
“Thank you. I try. So what do you need to tell me about the new car? Did they entice you into a larger model like the Accord?”
“Perhaps an S.U.V. like the CRV?”
“Oh no, not the Passport. It’s ginormous!”
“No, dear. I’m still looking at the turbocharged Civic.”
“Whew! I’m seriously relieved! So then what’s the problem?”
“It’s the leather seats.”
“Yeah, they’re really sweet.”
“So can I have them please, please, please?”
Melissa smiled. “Kenny, my love, you are a big boy. You should do whatever makes you happy.”
“I just want to give you a short dvar Torah before you make up your mind.”
“I knew there was a catch!”
“Just sit down and listen.”
Kenny took a nonleather seat.
“In this week’s parsha, Devarim, Moshe is addressing the Israelites in the desert. He discusses with them their experiences wandering in Sinai for forty years, and he says,”Hashem Elokecha imach, lo chasarta davar. Hashem your G-d was with you; you did not lack a thing.
“Now that kind of struck me as odd. They wander around for most of their lives with few possessions, eating manna and relying on desert springs for water. Some commentators say they had the same clothing for forty years. It never wore out. And Moshe says they didn’t lack a thing? Really?”
“I see where you’re going with this,” Kenny said.
“Then please let me get there.”
“The point is that they were with G-d, and they were on such a high spiritual plain that despite their lack of material goods they had everything they needed. They were content. Do you see my point?”
“Yes, I believe I do.”
“So if you need those leather seats, go get them. But only you can decide what is truly necessary. If you are on a high spiritual plain, you will probably require very little.”
“I hear you.”
“So no leather seats?”
“That’s up to you, dear.”
“And yet I’m not feeling so good about wanting them right about now.”
“My mission’s done here.”