Friday, October 18, 2013

Life´s A Game Of Memory

Recently, I was shopping in a department store in New york. In the 'beauty section', someone who probably doesn't consider herself much of a teacher, taught me a very important lesson. 
A big, broad African American woman (whose name, mind you, was Shwarma) was looking at the perfumes and body lotions, when her 8 year old son (whose name was probably Chummus) yelled excitedly, "Hey, mom! Look, they got chocolate scented body lotion and perfume- why don't you get 'em chocolate smelling stuff?" To which she wisely responded, "Sonny, I like to eat chocolate, I don't like to wear chocolate".
Avraham Avinu experienced and overcame ten difficult tests in his lifetime. This is in addition to all the regular, daily hardships that all human being´s face. If he had only passed nine, according to chaza"l, he would've come up short in his personal balance.
 Doesnt that seem a little harsh? And even unfair?
At the time of the tenth nisayon, personal test, he was 137 years old, (ad meah v'esrim). What had he accomplished so far in his lifetime?
He founded Monotheism, he created a religion, he fought off the whole world- and won, he was mekarev everyone who passed his way, he revolutionized the world... just to name a few. How many of us successfully finish even one of these projects? How many of us even start? And yet, if he had stopped at the age of 137 and not passed his last test he would not have fulfilled his mission in this world!
By the akeida, the tenth test, an angel called out from heaven "Avraham Avraham".
The Yalkut Shimoni explains what the repetition of the name is for. He says that there are two Avraham's. Avraham l'eila and Avraham l'sata. A heavenly Avraham and an earthly Avraham.
Finally, at the age of 137, the angel was informing him that the earthly Avraham matched the heavenly Avraham, and that he has fulfilled his mission in life.
When a child is born, he's created with two images. An earthly image, the person we see and know, and a heavenly image-  the person we can become. Our goal in life is to get these two images to meet and match.
OK, cool. 
So how do I begin playing this game of Memory? How can I find my heavenly match?
There's a famous chaza"l:  
Kol Hamekayem nefesh achas b'Yisrael, k'eelu kiyam olam malei, whoever saves or stabilizes one soul in Yisrael, it's like he has saved the whole world.
What is this, a 'yo mama' joke? Yo mama's so big that if you save her it's like saving the whole world?
There has to be a deeper meaning to this, other than it just being poetic and emotional.
Each person is his own 'olam', his own inner world.  This world refers to each individual´s unique talents, personality, emotional make-up, and spiritual inclinations.  It's a complex universe in there. It's sensitive, fragile, vulnerable and powerful. It's made up of emotional, physiological, physical, psychological, and many other elements.
These qualities are inborn and natural.
I once heard Rabbi Leib Keleman explain the two types of personality traits each person owns:
A- Moral / Immoral traits.
B- Amoral traits.
The 'A' category are things in our character that are changeable. 
For example: A person can increase their potential for altruism, kindness, patience...and a person can uproot traits like selfishness, cruelty, anger...
The 'B' category are things that are immutable. For example: Artistic or mathematical inclinations. They cannot change. Although we can recognize and channel whatever artistic potential that is within us, we cannot become something or someone that we're not.
A few years ago I bought a bottle of shampoo. It didn't take long to realize that the bottle was not waterproof. Every time it got wet the red and blue ink on the bottle melted down the sides and into my fingernails. After a few uses, I was no longer able to read the company of the shampoo, or the directions on it. I just kept hoping I was using it right. 
Now, why would someone make a bottle of shampoo in a container that's allergic to water?
That container should've been used for cookies. Not for shampoo.
There is a significant something that each person was created for. The way to success is by using the tools that we have; not by trying to use the tools that we want, but were not given.
Trying to be someone or something we're not, instead of focusing on our own qualities is the greatest recipe for failure. 
All the traits we were gifted are neutral, and therefore they can be geared toward the positive or the negative. Disagreeable ones can be replaced by desireable ones, and unrecognized traits of quality can be directed and developed.
Example 'A': Selfishness can be turned to altruism. Anger, to patience, and cruelty to kindness.
Example 'B': A person has a tendency to bloodshed... he can either become a murderer... or a doctor. Or a shochet. Or a mohel.
A person born with hyperactivity.... can either be very destructive, or he can be a highly productive individual. 
A person's traits and how he utilizes them constitute his "world", and bears witness in the next world as to how he realized his potential and individual talent.
This is man's obligation... and according the Mesilas Yesharim, his mission in life.
This is the only way for his two images to become one.
Now, we might understand why the famous song-- I mean mishne -- says: Kol Yisrael yaish lahem chelek... L'olam habah... everyone in Yisrael has a portion TOWARD the world to come...
Should'nt it say "in" the world to come? (B'olam habah?)
No. Because although we each have a portion, it's not a preexisting place sitting and waiting for us. We have to create it for ourselves. I create mine, and you create yours.  
We gain Olam Habah by working towards it. By recognizing our own inner world and working until our two worlds meet.
That's what happened with Avraham Avinu. Yes, he accomplished a whole lot in his life. 
But sometimes, we not only have to focus on what we've done... but also on what we haven't done. 
Cuz maybe there are some more of our talents that need to be utilized.
So, Shwarma was right. She told Chummus that chocolate is for eating, and not for wearing.
Every individual has a particular purpose in this world. We can each accomplish that special something that no one else can. 
But, we can only work towards it by understanding who we are and not by trying to be someone we're not.
¨Be yourself. Everyone else is taken¨
Have a beautiful shabbos,