There's a famous bakery on the other side of the pond that's known for its perfect, crispy pretzels. The owner has a great line which sums up not only the key to his successful baking business, but perhaps life in general:

'Back in the day', he says, 'bakers had to make the hungry full. Now, bakers have to make full people hungry'.

What a line!

Today there's so much out there, that the greatest challenge of many a business is not how to meet a demand, but how to create a demand. With such an abundance of, well, stuff in our world, one might've thought that it'd be easier for us to focus more on family, helping others, Torah and maintaining a general sense of calm and inner peace.

So... what's gone wrong?

Jewish mysticism identifies the culprit. It's called the Animal Soul. It lives inside us, together with its more refined counterpart, the G‑dly Soul. The animal soul is, as its name suggests, animalistic. It is entirely consumed by 'I want' and can't see past that.

But, as our pretzel baker friend reminds us, 2022's Animal Soul is a different animal than that of 1922, and certainly 1022. Back then the Animal Soul's desires were usually focused on simply trying to obtain things: Food, fun, a drink or two, a vacation. Who even heard of vacation in the Middle Ages (besides for King Louis IX)? Today these are all exponentially easier to reach for millions of people.

So how does the Animal Soul keep busy?

One word: FOMO.

The Animal Soul has reinvented himself. Instead of dreaming about how to obtain an actual loaf of bread (as he did back then), he now tries to make us feel, constantly, that there's something we're missing out on. Yes, we had lunch. But what if there's a better grilled chicken joint around the corner? What if the Galaxy really is better than the iPhone? What if there's a new Instagram post or news article? What if Greece really does have better beaches than Croatia? The Animal Soul is now busier than ever, precisely because there's so much out there. There's always something we could be missing out on!

All this is already making me thinking about all the stuff I could be missing out on while writing this article, so please allow me to digress for a moment:

In this week's Torah portion of Mishpatim we read about the laws of Kosher. Specifically, about prohibition against mixing milk and meat.

Although every Mitzvah in the Torah is important simply because that's what G‑d tells us to do, there are reasons, too. The reason for the Mitzvah of not mixing milk and meat is to remind us of the importance of respecting animals, and refraining from animal cruelty. Cooking an animal's meat in milk, the very substance meant to sustain the animal, is simply cruel. Hence its being outlawed for all good Jewish chefs.

Which brings us back to our wily 'Animal Soul'. Just as we are meant to respect actual animals, we are meant to respect our very own Animal Soul. Our Animal Soul may be gluttonous and always make us feel that we're missing out on something, but it's very into us. It's always focused on the person, what we can eat, what we can enjoy, what might make us happy.

Chassidic philosophy says that the Animal's Soul's constant FOMO actually comes from a very good place. We should be very into us. Each one of us is the apple of G‑d's eye, brimming with potential, holiness, the ability to light up the world and do so much good. If only we'd notice! 

Of course the Animal Soul needs to be controlled, and can lead us to some very unwise decisions. While its self-centered instincts can make one be simply selfish, they stem from a natural and very healthy appreciation of, and focus on, the goodness inside us. When used properly and focused on the good we can do rather than how to satisfy our every desire, the Animal Soul constantly reminds us of how special each of us are, and how much good we really can do. 

So the next time the opportunity do do a Mitzvah arises but we're just too tired or feel like what difference does it make anyway, we can take a leaf from the Animal Soul's playbook.

FOMO then might just be a very good thing.

Rabbi Avrohom