A journey to matter… a hike to BE

A journey to matter… a hike to BE October 7, 2010

I am on a journey.

We know the journey never ends. At least that is what all the stories and moshuls* and cliche’s tell us. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

Every step along the way provides new cognizance, illumination, and often times erudition of ideas.

I have lived 30 long years. Nothing in my life was given or taken in halves. When life was really mamish** good, it was good and when it was bad… it was mamish bad. And דווקא (davka***), I always came out the other end, eventually in better shape than when I went in.

And, baruch Hashem****, I feel like my life is finally fall into the right places. But what brought about this change? Isn’t that the question we are always asked? You found success in life growth!? How did you do it? And then you get the answers like, “just let go and stop thinking about it and (choose one) –
1. it will get better
2. you will find your soul mate
3. you will know the right choice
4. (fill in the blank)

Right. I get it. I totally understand what people are saying but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you need to really dig into your life and see what is going on. Sometimes you hear the right lessons at the right times and sometimes you hear the right lessons at the wrong times.

Lately, for me, it’s been all the right ones at the right times, baruch Hashem. The most recent and most impact-FULL one came during the intermediate days of Sukkot (the Chol Hamoed days). I was fortunate to hear a very cool rabbi speak.

You may know Rabbi Shmuley Boteach from his best selling books (like Kosher Sex) or TLC tv show, Shalom in the Home. I am fortunate that his daughter is studying with me at my Sem*****. He was visiting our Sem, Mayanot, over Chol Hamoed with his wife and two of his daughters and was dropping one of the girls off here for school. We were finishing up a Chassidus****** class when he came by and he was asked and kindly consented to, delivering a ’30 second’ teaching to us.

This ’30 second’ teaching opened 100 doors for me and offered such clarity. I will humbly share my imperfect version of his teaching.

First of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with him, Rabbi Boteach’s specialty is relationships and repairing troubled marriages. So, Rabbi Boteach tells us that our true fear is not of not being loved or dying or (fill in fear here) but rather the fear that we don’t matter. I want you to think about that for a minute. It’s okay, I’ll wait. The root of all our fears is feeling insignificant. We cause problems in our relationships, we stay away from relationships, we are workaholics all because we want to matter to the people around us.

In fact he said, “Are you a success in life if the people who mean the most to you, think the least of you?” That is our fear.

We feel like through our actions, our doing, we begin to matter. I have to get a 4.0 in high school, I have to get into the best college, I have to get a masters, I have to write books, I have to have my name on a building… But that isn’t what really matters in life. Those things fade. They cause conflict in life. Now he isn’t advocating sloth and abandonment of all “get up and go” drive to get things done or accomplished. But why are you doing those things? So you matter? Are you afraid that when you die, your family will bury you and then forget you? But you are going about it all wrong. Education doesn’t last longer than your brain, books sit on shelves getting dusty, buildings fall down or are demolished and replaced.

Wow. Are we depressed yet? I know that I am exhausted from trying to matter, from trying to be everything to everyone. So what is the solution?


In Judaism we believe that we are born in the ‘image’ of G-d, therefore (to start) we already are of infinite consequence. Rather than doing things to prove who you are, why don’t you just BE who you are? That doesn’t mean you can’t work hard or get degrees or build buildings but put the right intention behind it. BE.

Some of the most influential people in this world are not remembered. We don’t know their names but they made our lives infinitely better because of who they were in this world.

We have two options in life. We can prove that we matter by doing or by being. But you can never fully succeed by doing. So why do we fight so hard to do? The Lubavitcher Rebbe spent so much of his life helping people realize they matter and in that he was the epitome of being. The Rebbe would sit with anyone who needed council or a word of encouragement. He would respond to letters, listen to people that other people had thrown away. He taught us how to be.

Rabbi Boteach made this great analogy and I will try to explain it to my non-Jewish readers.
“College is about doing. Yeshiva is about being. And Chassidus is the art of being.” College is about grades and tests and community service. College focuses on what you are going to do with your future. Yeshiva or seminary, that is about being. At Mayanot, we live here, we are fed here, we are cared for. I only have to get dressed, get breakfast and walk into a 12 hour day of studying. I get to BE and not worry about the physical aspects of rent and bills and worries. Chassidus (and I try to explain this below in the “glossary”) is the art of being. How does this work? In Chassidus, we take the laws, the Halacha, in Judaism and find the spiritual aspects.

“The greatest human fear is that we are ordinary.” -Rabbi Boteach
Okay. but why do we fear ordinary? And how could any of us be ordinary with the divine spark that G-d gave us? Sure, easy enough to say but do I even believe that about myself? All the time? No, but I am starting to realize that in my everyday actions, I am extraordinary. Every time I say a bracha******* over my food, I am bringing something incredible into this ordinary piece of sustenance.

Rabbi Boteach ended with a reference to the Torah portion we were about to read on Simchat Torah, Vezot Ha’Bracha. This is literally the last portion in the Torah. The end Devarim where Moshe (Moses) blesses each of the tribes (except for Shimon but that’s for another time) and then dies. He dies on a mountain alone with G-d and no one knows where he is buried. The reason G-d did this was to ensure that we didn’t pray to Moshe as a false idol since he was the only leader we had known at the time.

How does this relate? We should all strive to be the hero without the spotlight, like Moshe. He dies alone with no fanfare after taking us out of Mitzrayim (Egypt) and leading us through the desert and listening to our whining. No one will even know where he is buried. His reward is nothing physical. Not even Jews saying Tehillim (Psalms) at his grave.

His life was for us, not for him. And so we should strive to live the same. Stop worrying about our ego and looking trendy and start living for klal Yisroel, all of Israel… for each other. Look up from your iPod, get your nose out of your Blackberry and help a lady with her groceries.

Then you will matter.

Sunset at Yehudiah in the Golan Heights by Rucheli

I realized I needed to start having a glossary at the end…
*moshul = example
**mamish = really (used for emphasis)
***דווקא – davka = impossible to really define. Used here as ‘for all that’ or surprisingly. This guy has good options of understanding this word.

****Baruch Hashem = thank G-d (literally, bless the name)
*****Sem = Seminary = a place for observant Jewish girls to go study after high school
******Chassidus = From Wikipedia – Hassidism is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith. And a class in Chassidus teaches how to connect Judaism to mysticism and deeper meanings of many rituals. Our Chassidus classes are based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe… aka Chabad
*******Bracha = blessing

Originally posted at Talia, She Wrote

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