All About You!
We live in such an egotistical, self-absorbed world that it is no wonder that it is falling apart. It’s fractured by the pull of each man for himself. From selfies to the social media platforms which broadcast them, the obsession with self is nothing less than ambicid, fratricide and “everyone else-cide.”
We deem others along with their ambitions and successes as threats to our own survival, and as such, everyone feels like an enemy and no one like a friend. And so, the world is unhinging from its axis and is on quick course to an unprecedented global transformation of some nature. Egoists would love to know that we are at the center and impetus of it all.
I once heard a fable which I liked very much. But as a writer, I thought that I could do better (there’s full blown ego for you!) and so I here’s my version:
There was a special island whose inhabitants were not people, but rather, positive emotions: Love, Serenity, Forgiveness, Joy, Hope, Inspiration and a few others. One day, Ego came to town to show off.
Shortly thereafter, a terrible storm was about to hit. The inhabitants of the island realized that they would have to escape to survive.
Love took a proactive role and made a boat to save everyone. All the emotions jumped on board. The boat was strong and ready to set sail. Suddenly, Love realized that Ego was missing. She quickly jumped out of the boat and went looking for him, only to find him in a bar crying over a drink.
“Quick! Hurry up! We have to leave before the storm hits!” cried Love.
Ego was adamant, “I’m not going. I should have been the first one to board the ship since I am a guest in this town.”
Love begged Ego to change his mind, but he was very stubborn. Love then tried a tactic to which Ego could relate.
“If you stay here, you will die.” said Love.
Ego, wanting nothing more than to preserve himself, agreed. When he reached the boat, Ego once more revealed his ugly disposition and ordered everyone to get off the boat so that he could board first.
All the positive emotions were happy to oblige and jumped out. Then Ego proudly got in. But just as he did, the boat sunk and cracked destroying the only escape made by the hands of Love. The storm struck and everyone died. If only Ego had left his attitude ashore, they might all have survived. But the weight of his arrogance and attitude which he brought aboard wreaked destruction for all.
How often in our own lives do we let ego destroy our relationships, opportunities and important occasions? Further our need to self-assert calluses our hearts and we can no longer feel the pain of others. Everyone is classified as either a steppingstone or a stumbling block. They are either to be used or kicked out of the way. Their humanity is vanquished in plots and schemes. Only we count, informs our ego. The Book of Proverbs warns us that, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (16:18)
This week’s parashah Behar reminds us of the same: “And you shall not wrong, one man his fellow Jew, and you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord, your God.” (Leviticus 25:17) The rabbis explain that this includes not just actions which defraud others but words as well. It is prohibited to give someone bad advice either with the aim of destroying them or to aggrandize yourself. The regard for the rights, well-being and feelings of others is an important theme in this week’s Torah reading. It includes not charging interest to our fellow Jews, helping a brother in financial distress and the sensitivity of inheritance rights. For certain nowhere does it advocate kicking ‘em when they are down or sabotaging them when they “up” all for the sake of preserving the precious “I.” We are all in this together and G-d is watching. He thus finishes His sentence with “…And you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord, your God.”
It is significant to note that G-d sent none other than Moses, the humblest man who ever lived, to liberate the Israelites. Moses was a reluctant leader who begged G-d to send someone else. Furthermore, we also learn humility from the location upon which G-d gave the Torah -- Mount Sinai. G-d did not pick the highest mountain in the world to bestow the loftiest gift ever given to mankind. He chose a humble mountain as the backdrop for the giving of His Torah, a Book that would render His people holy and transform them from Pharaoh’s slaves to servants of His will and masters of their passions. “For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants, whom I took out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God.” (Leviticus 25:55) That is no subtle reminder that we are NOT here to serve ourselves or to worship the ground we walk on. We are here to illuminate it with the word of the Almighty God.
So, let's work on shaping our egos both our gigantic ones and our fragile ones. For an arrogant man knows not his place in this world and a meek one will never make his place. Let’s chip away at the selfishness density of an ever-darkening world and let the Light in.