Spirituality – Finding Our Purpose

by | Jun 14, 2007 | 0 comments

My experience has been that most people investigate Judaism for one reason and one reason only: they are in search of spirituality.
Most thinking people reach a point where they feel there must be another dimension in life. From the moment a person begins to enjoy a level of independence, the search begins for gratification. As the palate matures one begins to seek happiness and eventually pursues a level of satisfaction that exists only in the imagination. Perhaps, with help from above, a person eventually begins to search for spirituality. The chase for the soul, the innate knowledge that there must be more to life – and most of all the feeling that we each have a purpose ? brings one to the doorstep of the Shul, Kollel, Chabad House, Aish HaTorah, the neighborhood rabbi and even the closest observant Jew available. I?d like to say to anyone who will listen: if you are searching ? don?t stop; if are being sought out ? deliver.
Investigating our tachilis, our purpose, in life is no easy task. By 40 years of age anyone who has uncovered this individual purpose fro his or her existence, is well ahead of the game. The Mesilos Yeshorim begins with the charge, ?It is the basic obligation of every Jew to clarify and decide what is his purpose in this world.? The story is told of one of the great masters of mussar who decided to study the Mesilos Yeshorim, but every time he picked up the book he couldn?t get past the first sentence, the most important question we may ever ask ourselves: Why did God put me on this world? What is my particular task? In what way am I totally indispensable? Let?s talk tachlis.
Rav Tzadok HaCohen, of blessed memory, teaches a very fundamental principle. He says that at some point in every person?s life, God grants a vision, perhaps a form of prophecy. In this vision one sees a picture of oneself, of what he or she could look like, of oneself as the greatest individual one can become. In Kabbalistic language this is referred to as isarusa d?leyla, an awakening from above. It is not a result of personal toil but rather a gift from the heavens, a job description, a wake up call from headquarters.
After having this dream, says Rav Tzadok, most people withdraw into the present and forget what they have seen. They throw away a gift from God, who has just shown them what they could become in life, their raison d?etre.
The Talmud states that when the people of Israel stood before the split Red Sea, every single Jew received a prophecy. ?A simple handmaiden saw what one of the greatest prophets, Ezekial, didn?t see.? More then three million Ezekials. What did they see? What did God tell them? Where are their books of prophecy? What became of all the handmaidens?
The answer is that their prophecies were not about the future or about messianic times. Their vision was about themselves. Each Jew was shown an image of what he could become, i.e., his unique contributions to the world. When the freed slaves crossed the Sea, it wasn?t to get to the other side; it was to become ?a holy people and a nation of priests?. It became their charge, as it is ours, to work tirelessly to meet that goal.
Rav Tzadok warns that a person should not strive for aspirations that are not ones own. They will only serve as a diversion from the true task of life.
One of the most moving stories of the Torah occurred immediately before the death of Jacob. He gathered all his children around him and told them to listen while he blessed them and told them what would happen to them at the end of days. The Hebrew word, ?yekaray?, which is usually translated as ?happen? is peculiarly spelled here with a final aleph. The extra letter changes the meaning of the word, to ?call?. The word ?yekaray? spelled with an aleph actually translates as ?called?. Jacob told his children, ?Gather as one and I will tell you what will be calling to you at the end of days.?
Jacob was teaching his sons and all of Israel that same fundamental principle. There will come a time in your life when you will hear a calling. When you hear it, it may seem unrealistic or na?ve, but don?t turn away. Grab it. It is yours to attain. If you turn around and go back to sleep, it will disappear. A life is a terrible thing to waste.
Consider the Purim miracle. The Jews in Persia are in serious trouble. A Hitler named Haman is on the loose. King Achashverosh is inaccessible. Miracle of miracles, our very own Queen Esther is perfectly positioned in the royal court. Mordechai approaches Esther and charges her with the responsibility of saving her brethren. Esther hesitates and Mordechai says, ?Who knows? Maybe it is for this very reason that you have become the queen.?
Who knows? Who doesn?t know? It?s obvious to all who read the story why Esther was so positioned. When God split the sea for the Jewish people, did any Jew say, ?Maybe it?s for me to walk through? Who knows?
But Esther didn?t know, and the great Mordechai wasn?t sure. More frightening, however, is the rest of Mordechai?s statement: ?And if you don?t seize the opportunity at this time, the Jews will be saved by some other means, but you and your family will be lost.? Esther had a chance to stand up and be counted. She understood. She acted and she saved her people.
According to the Talmud, Moses once became so close to God that he asked, ?Please let me see your face.? God said no. His refusal was not strictly theological. God said to Moses, ?I revealed Myself to you once at the burning bush. There you hid your face; you didn?t want to see me. Now I am hiding My face. When I wanted, you didn?t want: now you want and I don?t want.? Once in the history of mankind was this opportunity offered, but Moses said no. When Moses became ready, it was already too late.
The Psalm emphasizes this. King David said, ?Like a ram moans at the bank of the fast water, so does my heart moan for you, God.? The commentaries explain that when there is a periodic cloudburst in the desert, the rain comes down quick and strong, but, due to the heat of the sand, the water doesn?t soak in. instead, it flows in a deluge to the low spots in the desert. These spots are called fast waters, afikim. The desert ram knows where to find these spots, and when it rains, it runs with all its might to catch the water before it evaporates in the desert heat. If the ram arrives too late, it lets out a moan heard for miles around. Said King David, ?So does my heart moan for you, God.?
May we all be privileged to fulfill our task in this world, to be awake for the call and to drink from the waters of Eden in this world and the next.

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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