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חיים שאל ממך נתתה לוLife he requested of You, You gave it to him. (Tehillim 21:5)
Hashem, You have given me life, but You keep the tachlis of why you sent my neshamah down into this world hidden from me! How can you expect me to fulfill my mission if you don’t even tell me what that mission is? What will I be accountable for once I return my neshamah to You? What is my true potential that You want me to live up to?
Hashem, I am asking for life from You – but not the life of an animal who merely exists to fulfill its bodily desires. I am asking for a life in which each day I can work to fulfill the tachlis of why You put me here in this world.
I posted the following comment:
When I was first married I spent “hisbodedus time” focused on this question. It wasn’t until I heard a shiur on B’nai Machshava Tova (given by R Weinberger) that I, sort of, gave up this path of thinking. R Weinbeger mentioned the importance of realizing when to cheshbon and think about things. The example he gave, I believe, was about greeting someone after minyan in the morning. You can think to yourself, “I wonder how this person is? I want to wish him a good day, but what if he had a bad morning or has a presentation at work in 2 two hours and is stressing out about.” The other option is just to say, “I hope you have a great day!”
Sometimes, we over think too many things. I am often guilty of this.
I remember specifcally the Simchas Torah of 2001 and thinking about this. The shul I was in was singing a song that I really didn’t like and not many people were dancing. I started to chesbon that I wasn’t such a lebedik song to begin with and if I danced, I’d end up only being the 6th person in the circle. I caught myself and realized that I was wasting an opportunity to show my love for the Torah and just jumped in and danced.
I have found, that if I am really plugged into my observant life as a Jew with davening, learning, doing what I am obligated to do on a daily basis, then eventually I get an idea for something or opportunities come up that I find ruchnius-rooted fullfilment in doing.
I think that we all are trying to figure out how we can fit our piece into the larger puzzle that makes up Hashem’s plan for us in this world. We all want a purpose, a mission statement, or a compass that directs us. Micha Berger found his mission statement, based on the introduction to the sefer Shaarei Yosher (you can read about this and his excellent plan of actualizing that statement here).
In an off-blog discussion with A Simple Jew we shared some ideas about the different ways of focusing on this mystery of tachlis, purpose. I had tried the deep contemplation method and, for me, it didn’t work. As I commented above, I find that when I’m following the path of the “regular” things an observant Jew is meant to do, there are time when “purpose” comes my way. Sometimes not thinking too much about something yields results. This is based on chapter 4 of Jewish Meditation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt’l, he describes the difference between being “locked on” a specific problem and another way to solve an issue. He writes:
The appears to be, however another type of problem-solving consciousness. The first time I became aware of this was when, in the course of Kabbalistic research, I was trying to figure out the properties of a five-dimentional hypercube. The problem was extremely difficult, since it involved trying to visualize what would happen when the hypercube was rotated through five-dimensional space. I had spent several afternoons sweating over the problem, without even coming close to a solution.
Then, one evening, I was relaxing in the bathtub, and mymind wandered to the problem, almost offandedly. Suddenly, every aspect of the problem seemed peferectly clear, and the relationships that had been impossibly complex were now easy to visualze and understand. By the time I got out of the tub, I had worked out the problem completely.
Eventually, I began to realized that this was happening to me often. Sitting in the tub was an excellent time to solve the most difficult problems. But the expereince was very different from being locked on to problem. Quite to the contrary, the mind was free to wander wherever it watned, but it seemed tohit upon the right answers with surprising clarity.
I have heard, read, and told myself that having a job and getting that set amount of money every two weeks is really for the purpose of supporting my family, paying tuition, buying food to enhance Shabbos Kodesh, and so forth. This mindset is something that has to be a constant reminder and, I admit, I don’t think about it enough. The popularity of Daf Yomi might, in fact, be due to the masses of those, like me, who are working and attempting to find a higher purpose in things. Learning a daf or anything on a daily basis gives one a sense of direction, accomplishment, and purpose. It’s the same thing if you have committed to attending a weekly shiur. You know that for a specific amount of time you are accomplishing something in the realm of learning Torah.
However, and don’t hit me because I’m wearing glasses. just because one is learning on a regular basis, that doesn’t mean that you are exempt from finding a greater purpose. I don’t think, and I can say this because I started the new daf yomi cycle, that the daf is all that Hashem wants me to do. So find a mission statement, or dedicate 20 minutes a day to asking Hashem to give you insight into your purpose, or just take a bath. If these ideas don’t work, then ask a close friend or people at a kiddush if they have found their purpose. I can let you in on a little secret, when I ask myself this question, I can safely stay that it probably involves:
- Being able to get up in the morning (I am not a morning person)
- Trying to do things to help my wife and children (hard because, by nature, I am selfish)
I am sure there are more things that encompass big ideas like making observance more meaningful, breaking down stereotypes of observant Judaism, and teaching others why they are important to Judaism. I suppose that just realizing we have a purpose is a good start, too.
Thank you for sharing this. Very well said.