By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
In today’s New York Times Opinion Page, David Brooks writes a very good article on the Human Condition. He talks about the way current literature about being human adds a third dimension. He talks about a person with deep character having certain qualities. “In the realm of intellect, one has certain permanent convictions about fundamental things. In the realm of emotions, one has a web of unconditional loves and in the realm of action, one has permanent commitments to transcendent projects that cannot be completed in a single lifetime.”
To me, what Mr. Brooks is talking about is Religion. Only through a faith-based manner of living do these conditions exist, in my humble opinion. The reason I say this is his use of the words “permanent” and “unconditional.” We only learn both through faith and religion. I am not speaking of any certain religion; although I believe this is the foundation of Judaism, I am not speaking of ritual adherence either. As the Prophets of Israel taught, God doesn’t need our ritual offerings, God needs us to care for other humans and build a society based on Justice, Truth, Love, Compassion and Kindness. What most “religious” people speak of and what most people think of when hearing the word “religious” are these ideas, not the commitment to decency, love, and transcendence.
He goes on to say, “so much of what we call ‘depth’ is built through freely chosen suffering. People make commitments –to a nation, faith, calling or loved one—and endure the sacrifices those commitments demand.” This is, I believe, what Rabbi Heschel speaks about when he says that “the interests of others have to be our concerns.” To do this, we have to endure hardships, sacrifices, ridicule, making mistakes, etc. in order to draw nearer to our own depth as well as to God and others.
Sacrifice has become a bad word in our lexicon. It is not a bad word. In fact, it is a way of living that brings about change, growth, life and love. In order to love my child, my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my friends, my country, my community, my God, I must let go of my natural instinct of asking and demanding MINE. I have to, instead, be committed to saying Hineni, here I am.
We live in a world that has allowed itself to be defined by science, brain power, desires, and idols. Mr. Brooks, in my reading of him, is suggesting that this is not the way to live well. I agree. I have practiced T’Shuvah, Redemption, for over 25 years and have found my sacrifices make me so much more. My sacrifices allow me to BE Human, not just live as an animal.
For me, Mr. Brooks is calling on all of us to be people of depth. He is reminding us that only through redeeming our Divine Nature and our redeeming our ability to Be Human can we live a life of meaning and purpose. Please join me in Being Addicted to Redemption and making our world better.