Imitation of life
My whole life I always hated it when people copied me. Those who love me know it well and hopefully don’t love me less because of it. But I always deemed it as a form of identity theft. I know some will say imitation is the highest form of praise. But for me, imitation is the highest form of irritation. And I’ve often racked my brain as to why it bothers me so much. Was I afraid that if you wore the same hat and ring that I would mistake you for me? At what point do I risk losing my unique identity altogether? And then I think about it another way and question whether those things which are copyable are really me at all. Some advise and say that if you’re being copied then you must be doing something right. But I’ve concluded that if I am copyable then I’m doing something very wrong.
The problem with us is that we each think that the whole universe revolves around us. We live in a fractured generation that nurtures egotism with social media as its bolstering and enabling cohort. What good can come from that? The individual is entrenched in a world of “I,” selfies and self-promotion causing brother to envy brother and friend to envy friend. Who really cares about their community anymore or even world events? Our potent egos have isolated us and desensitized us. This separateness is antithetical to creation where cohesion and oneness are essential for existence, where elements intrinsically know that they must function as a team, i.e. rain, earth, plants, air, in order for things to work. Like notes in a song which must come together to create a song; we humans must find our “note” and realize that no other can make our unique sound: D♭ (D flat) cannot usurp C# (C sharp). In addition, while copying another in envy we will always be singing out of tune. For each one of us is a unique soul and if we’d be truly pressing ourselves to extricate what is uniquely us we would be as inimitable as a thumb print; we’d love ourselves and all that we’d do in a healthy way; and we would not be threatened by others nor feel the need to copy or envy them.
In this week’s parasha, Vayechi, the last in the book of Genesis, we read about the imminent death of Jacob who with foresight at the impending moment blessed his sons, the future tribes of Israel. His parting words were by no means a blanket blessing to wish his sons a one-size-fits-all good luck and farewell. Each son received a unique blessing which was intrinsic to his soul and his idiosyncratic and divine destiny. Each tribe would ultimately be represented by a precious stone embedded in the breastplate of the high priest when serving in the Holy Temple. Could the sapphire representing Issachar imitate the pearl which represented Zebulun? Could the emerald representing Judah imitate the turquoise representing Naphtali? Each gem has its own beauty and brilliance to reflect in the world. Ultimately, scholars descended from Issachar, seafarers from Zebulun, leaders from Judah, judges from Dan, priests from Levi, etc. Why even bother having 12 tribes if each was destined to be like the other. Obviously, they were not. “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel...each man, according to his blessing, he blessed them.” (Genesis 49:28)
When we become the best and highest version of ourselves, no one can steal our thunder because we own the sky. Don’t tell Cecil B DeMille, but the Sages teach that when the Jews left Egypt the Re[e]d Sea didn’t split into two, it actually split into twelve paths, providing a distinct path for each of the twelve tribes. Each one of us should to take an honest, deep look at ourselves and find the gem within that is distinctly us. It’s not only about living a purpose-driven life; it is about living, in heightened form, our own unique purpose. Here I am now at my laptop, writing only what I can write. It is my purpose, it is my soul, it is my thumbprint, it is Aliza. Who are YOU?