Where Are You Looking?
Why am I here?" and "What's my purpose in life?" These questions resonate with many, especially during moments of uncertainty and introspection. They are fundamentally spiritual questions, yet some remain unsatisfied with the simple, spiritual response: serving God and elevating the world is your purpose.
"Nah, it has to be more than that," is a common refrain, often heard from those reluctant to embrace religious duties that might disrupt their daily routines or necessitate a change of menu. In an attempt to soothe empty hearts and weary souls, they fill their lives with material possessions, vacations, external adornments, sometimes drugs and alcohol, or illicit relationships. Yet, these are mere band-aids on wounds that are seeking deeper and more poignant remedies.
The epitome of such lives can be found in the entertainment world where the beautiful people seem to have it all, yet their lives are marked by divorce, depression, addiction, and often untimely ends. These glaring examples should teach us that the shallow pursuit of more and abundance will never provide satisfactory answers to life's profound questions. Instead, it often exacerbates our frustration, leaving us with gold in our hands but empty hearts.
Perhaps the most wasteful question we can ask is, "What does God want from us?" The answer is not elusive; it is plainly written in God's Torah. Yet, we often place more trust in influencers and gurus than in God's own word. We view God's rules as an inconvenience, searching for quicker paths to happiness, akin to golden calves. How has that approach been working out?
We are indeed a generation adept at asking questions but often resistant to listening to the answers, especially when they require change. It's akin to someone asking, "How can I lose weight?" and becoming frustrated upon hearing that it involves eating less and exercising. They may seek alternative solutions like diet pills, mouth braces, or surgery, all while watching themselves gain weight each year. In matters of truth, there is only one answer, and that is the word of God. Even the American dollar wisely acknowledges, "In God we trust."
It is a law of nature that every empty space beckons to be filled—crevices with dirt or water, blank walls with artwork, buckets with rain, chairs with sitters, and hearts and souls with purpose. The choice of what to fill the emptiness with has always been ours to make.
While some people travel the world seeking answers and to find themselves, we can set aside the travel brochures. What we seek requires no frequent flyer miles or suitcases. The truth we seek is already within us; we just need to reconnect with it. Every quest is ultimately a search for God, but often misplaced and in the wrong destinations.
This week's Torah reading, Nitzavim-Vayelech, reminds us that God's word is not distant; it is close, within our grasp, and nestled in our hearts, waiting for us to heed its guidance. The Torah is the DNA of reality, and to subvert or ignore it only serves to expand our emptiness.
In our relentless search for meaning, let us not forget that the answers are closer than we think. We need only to be honest enough and strong enough to accept the answers. The Torah explicitly states that if a person flouts God's will and says, "I will have peace, even if I follow my heart's desires," he will be punished. We were given the choice between blessings and curses. God advised us to choose life.
In our everyday lives, when a person nearby sneezes, we usually say "Bless you," even to a stranger standing in line near us or at the next table. However, if the person is far away, we typically won't. Similarly, in our relationship with God, those who stand close will be blessed. Those who are far, it's time to come back. As the Jewish New Year is upon us, it's a perfect time to turn inward, embrace the truth, and reconnect with the purpose that has always resided within us: to serve God and become the best version of ourselves through His Word. Shabbat Shalom