I live for my parents No
I live for my business No
I live for my music, my writing, my running No, No, No
I live for my husband No
I live for my children No
You live for you
I am a professional No
I am a writer, a musician No
I am a daughter, a parent, a spouse No, No, No
You are you
You dare not live for your parents, your business, your music
You dare not live for your writing, your running
You dare not live for your husband
You dare not live for your children.
Your parents, your business, your music, your writing, your running, your children –
are all pieces added on to you
that are important
but that must be part of a you that claims you first.
You must live for you.
Excerpt from: I Once Asked a Wise Man by Ricky Cohen. Publish date Sept 2012
The question asked from the first generation of man and in every generation is:
“For whom and for what do I live?”
“Do I live to enrich the lives of others – or to enrich my life?” “Will my eternity be defined by what I’ve given or how I’ve gained?”
These questions don’t simply speak to the notion of hesed (kindness) and giving back versus doing what I need or want for me. They speak to how one does the good things he does, and what perspective one has when he builds his wealth and success. The answers to these questions are complex and their implications very serious.
The confusion on this issue seems to be embedded into the words uttered at the very point of man’s creation. As man and woman are brought onto the planet they are blessed with the ability – and the mandate, to fill the earth, master it – and eat from it. In fact, man is given the clear directive that all that preceded him is for him (Genesis chapter 1, verses 27-30).
This perspective seems to be further affirmed when G-d reaches out to Abraham and tells him to leave his homeland, family, and belongings, and begin again – so that he will be blessed with wealth, fame and lineage. The words clearly imply that Abraham was called upon for a test within a test. The first test was to abandon all that he had -and the second was to do it all for his own sake!
The implication is that had he done it purely for the sake of his Maker he would have failed this test.
And it is made clear in relatively short order that Abraham was rewarded with all that was promised to him. Wealth: On his return from Egypt. Fame: In the war of the four kings versus the five kings. And children: Upon his being blessed with Isaac.
So it seems that man’s role in life is to build himself and ultimately be personally rewarded for his building – right on target with the description in the story of creation.
But what about Abraham being described as the one who personified the notion of self-sacrifice and complete submission to the Almighty – isn’t that the Abraham we know?
The answer presents humanity with the greatest challenge of all its challenges -demanding of man a place in this world that is fragile and tenuous. In the words of on of our sages: The motivation for man’s actions must be the service of his Creator, yet the objective must be that by doing so he will come fully into his own.
In other words, it’s not about selflessness – doing completely for others, nor is it about doing simply for me, it’s a complex interwovenness of motivation and goal, incentive and desired outcome. One must not be without the other.
As is so beautifully written: “…the only gift we can give to the One who has everything (the Almighty) is to become fully and wholly ourselves…”
So it’s always about my children, my interests, my achievements – and it’s never about them. It’s about all that I touch and beget – but it’s mostly about what I become.
So one must ask himself: “Who am I?”
“Can I claim an identity that is exclusive of what I do, whom I’ve helped, and who and what I brought into this world?”
The answer is: I must be able to do so.
I must be able to claim an identity that is defined by:
- The fineness of my character and the fact that it is more refined today than it was a few months back.
- My growing hunger to understand G-d’s world, and my achievements in that understanding.
- My patience, quietude and joyfulness – true reflections of a person’s character.
- My measurably escalating sense of awe and pride, humility and strength.
Abraham was sent on a journey to become himself – the same journey each of us is sent on. In the process he was given wealth, fame and children. But most important, in the process he became Abraham.