Saturday, October 13, 2007

What’s on Your List?

You need to make a new list. In fact, your soul depends on it.

Human beings are listmakers; it’s what distinguishes us from the animals. (No, that’s not a joke!!).

We make lists for:

Phone numbers
Phone calls
Sermon ideas (I’m a Rabbi, ok!!)

Sometimes we need a list to keep track of all the lists.

There’s one list I’m working on now. And it’s the most important list anyone can make.

There is a story told about a Chassidic Rebbe and a beloved disciple. Chassidic practice is that the disciples of the Rebbe bring him a kvitl, a note. On this note is a list of things the disciple wants his Rabbi to pray for. One day the loyal disciple visits the rabbi with a kvitl that contains a long list of requests, for every possible wish.

The Rebbe took a long look at the list, and pushed the kvitl back. He looked at the disciple, and said: “you’ve thought a lot about what you need. But have you thought about why you are needed?”

Despite the apparent rejection, the disciple was ecstatic. His friends were puzzled; why was the disciple so happy? After all didn’t the rabbi just reject him?

The disciple explained that from his perspective, the Rebbe had taught him something precious. The Rebbe had implied that he, the simple disciple, was needed in this world.

The disciple got it right. To be needed is the greatest joy. And to find out why we are needed is our greatest obligation.

The 18th century Italian Rabbi, Moshe Chaim Luzzato, begins his classic work, the Path of the Just, by saying that the most fundamental idea in Judaism is to know what our obligation in this world is. To live a meaningful life requires a different type of list, one that lists all the reasons why the world needs us.

In our consumer driven culture, people work hard, and shop hard. Yuppie life has become a well oiled machine, where lists organize our time around commerce and consumption. But there’s barely a moment for the soul, and the most important list remains empty: an answer to the question “why am I needed?”.

I am making this list for the first time. It’s a frightening but exciting process. Why are we needed? To call Mom? To hug the wife and kids? And to accomplish this….or is it to accomplish…that? Or maybe something else…..hmm…I’ve got to figure that out.

You are needed – that’s why God put you on this earth. So make the list. You’ll find it intimidating, exhilarating and confusing.

It will be the only list you ever really need.

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