February 24, 2020

Engaging in Giant Questions with A Few Little Answers

Having just emerged from the High Holy Days and the personal journeys that we take through them, it is important to never stop searching the deepest places in our hearts and souls. Here are some questions to ask ourselves as we make our way through the year 5780.

Why is there a world? What am I supposed to be doing in it?

Most of us forget there doesn’t have to be a world at all. In fact, nothing has to be the way it is. Reality is dynamic, which means you’re not stuck. Take stock of all the things that can be. 

Am I still growing, or am I going through life imitating the person I used to be? 

Most of us decide at a certain point that we’ve more or less gotten life right. We then spend the rest of our lives imitating the people we used to be. In other words, we stop growing. The moment we do, we become “old” — and it can happen at any age. On the other hand, if we never stop growing intellectually and emotionally, we remain young at heart until our last breath.

Are the majority of my prayers for myself and money?

Have you ever heard someone say, “That person is worth $5 million”? I always think, “How do you know how much they’re worth?” He or she could have $5 million and be worth two cents. The true worth of a person is based on personal values, not income. If we make ourselves into loving, sensitive people, our true worth skyrockets, no matter how much is in our bank accounts.

When is the last time I had a heart-to-heart conversation with God and cried?

Do you know why crying to HaShem feels good? Because deep down, on a soul level, we know we’re pouring out our heart to the One who loves us the most. HaShem loves us. As Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav teaches, talk to Him like you’d talk to your best friend.

Do I still believe I can be the person I once wanted to be? If not, what died inside of me?

Some goals have expiration dates — like becoming an Olympic athlete. Others don’t — like becoming holy. The great thing about being alive is we can set new goals at any stage of our lives. The wiser we are, the more we invest in those things that last forever. Is there anything more everlasting than HaShem or our souls, the pieces of eternity He puts inside of us? We never stop being players in life, so don’t give up. 

Is God an idea inside of my head? Am I an idea inside God’s head?

What is the difference between someone who believes in one God and someone who believes in many gods? Someone who believes in many gods says a god is in the flowers, a god is in the mountains, a god is in the forest, etc. But someone who believes in one god says the entire universe is inside God. So many of us think we make God exist by believing in Him, but the reality is, without God, there is no “us.”

What can I do for the world that nobody else can, even if it’s small?

The sages teach that there is no thing without a purpose and no one without his or her time. That means everyone is important, and the world isn’t complete without every one of us. Ask yourself, “Why can’t the world exist without me?” Whatever the answer is, do more of that.

Should I boycott God until He gives me what I want?

When we feel like our prayers aren’t being answered, many of us use the following strategy: “I will have nothing more to do with You, God, until You give me what I want.” That approach might work with a difficult employee — but with God? Not so much. If we’re going to make a breakthrough, we need a new approach. That may mean not less of God, but more of God in our lives.

Do I believe I have a soul that lives forever?

This is a giant question because if the soul is eternal (and it is), that means that after one dies, one lives on. This means the majority of my life will be spent outside my body. If that’s the case, then the choices I make in this world have everlasting importance. We tend to think the mitzvahs we do are for God, but from this perspective, we see the chief beneficiary of all the good we do is us.

Does God know better than me, or do I know better than God?

One of the turning points in my spiritual journey was when I realized the sages know me better than I know myself. It was a humbling moment. We tend to think of ourselves as the constant exceptions to every rule. I’ve come to realize that’s just wishful thinking.

Would I worship a God I completely understood?

The Kotzker Rebbe famously wrote: “I would never worship a God I understood.” I translate this to mean that if you know everything God knows, then you’re also   God, so what do you need God for? This leads to a surprising thought: God ceases to be God if He can be totally understood. Put another way, the very premise of God is that He cannot be totally understood.

Do I believe God believes in me?

Every morning, the first thing we do is say Modeh Ani, where we thank God for giving us another day of life. It concludes with the words,” “How great is Your faith.” The Alexander Rebbe explains that means how great is God’s faith in us. This idea is so important that our sages made sure it was the first thing we say every day! We don’t just have dreams for God — God has dreams for us, and He has great faith we’ll accomplish them.

David Sacks is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer.