That's ALL You Are?
B'H It’s a strange feeling when we leave a job and our business cards become instantly obsolete as we are no longer who they say we are. We feel important by affiliation and often feel like nothings when we don’t have impressive credentials to back us up, great jobs, a good business, a rich husband, rich parents, Ivy League schools, a platinum level credit card, etc. We stand there insecure, vulnerable, reassessing our own worth. Who am I without all that? (Listen to shiur on Soundcloud)
And you are right, if you feel like a nothing without all that then you are nothing by your own math. Fancy titles hypnotize us and we come to believe our own lies and illusions. We feel the need to embellish our resumes and exaggerate how great were our vacation spots. The Talmud calls this world alma d’shikra, the world of lies. Everything is a misrepresentation. No, there is nothing wrong with putting our best foot forward, as long as it is our foot—as long as we don’t mistake the delusory huge shadows that our tiny feet cast for reality itself. Being a phony or a fraud is defeating the purpose of our own creation. As a journalist, at the onset of my career, meeting the famous was exciting, I was impressed with myself--a superstar by affiliation. Two decades later, half the people I’ve interviewed have died (most recently Jackie Mason, z”l). Does that make me dead by affiliation too, G-d forbid? When you rub shoulders with such people, what really rubs off? Perhaps you learn a little, but for the most part it is a fake world bamboozled and simultaneously paranoid with itself. At what expense are we hanging on to our titles, prestige or make-belief visions of self? A whole life goes by without truth. I’m so lucky that I have such strong faith and belief in G-d because when I finally realized I was living in a vapid world of make-believe there was something that was real and unchanging for me to grasp on to, G-d and His Torah, my miner’s torch in a dark world. I have met some very decent people too, but I can truly say that my proudest affiliation is with G-d. Working for Him alone is when I really became a somebody. And, I’m most fulfilled by my latest title. No, it is not editor-in-chief, producer, pundit or Queen of Questions; It is servant of G-d. In this job what is real about me has lasted, the stardust is gone with the wand. My cover stories of famous people are now more ancient and irrelevant than a Roman war chariot and yet my weekly Torah blogs from prior years spring eternal. For the Torah has no expiration date; it is the Tree of Life and all who cling to it shall live. We have only to look to Moses as the ideal role model. He never applied for the greatest job in history. He was assigned it nonetheless for he had life’s greatest and rarest trait: humility. The greatest prophet in history, who spoke face-to-face with G-d, did not have business cards that read Prophet-in-Chief or CEO of the Torah. A midrash teaches that Moses begged G-d to let him enter the Land even as a beast of the field because titles didn’t matter to Moses. His humility and faith made him the worthy and blessed vessel to receive the greatest gift ever given to humanity, the Torah. Yesterday’s magazines with their great cover stories are all in the dumpster while G-d’s Book still sits on almost every bedside table. King David's humility too made him the greatest king in history: "And I am a worm and not a man." (Psalms 22:17) Today, our egos and pride are so massive that we don’t want to face the truth of who we are. It’s like a super model looking into the mirror with no makeup on. Ouch!: “I’m not what the world thinks I am.” And so we begin to lie even to ourselves and figuratively sleep with our makeup on. But that is no way to live. We must learn from our forefathers to find the courage within and know we can succeed even if we think we are “lacking” in one way or another, i.e., we had the wrong parents, we are short or fat, we never finished school, we are not rich, we don’t have the gift of gab, etc. The Satan will supersize our perceived inefficiencies to convince us that we can’t succeed. Don’t listen. The Torah not only forbids speaking negative words against another but also listening to them. So why would you listen to the Satan when he speaks badly about you to you? Moses had a speech impediment and yet he was the deliverer of G-d’s word; Before he was king, David was a short shepherd who took down Goliath singlehandedly and became a warrior; Queen Esther was said to be green skinned (whatever that means,) yet she, from all the maiden of the land won King Achashverosh’s heart thus saving her people; Jacob was the surefooted leader of the 12 tribes, surefooted with a limp, that is; Rahab was a prostitute who did teshuvah and married none other than Joshua, Moses' blessed disciple. As for the inanimate kingdom which seems locked into its destiny, well, a staff turned into a snake, a sea parted in two and a rock gave forth water. Those are just a few examples. You see my friends, it is really the world of lies which limits us. Long before today’s pop culture gurus, our Torah teaches us that when we cling to Hashem, the Divine spirit that animates us, nothing is impossible. You can do it! Corona and its repercussions had many people ripping up their “prestigious” calling cards. Hashem is beckoning—it is time to listen, demote the "cards" and hear the calling.