Is the World your (huge) responsibility? Read on…
Recently I read an article which bristled with distaste as it questioned the value of Torah-based personal growth books. Focusing on the self is a selfish indulgence, the article said (in much stronger words), and went on to express the need for the publication of more Universal, non-self-referential, and brilliantly-intellectual explorations of Torah Judaism.
I get the point.
It might seem selfish to focus on the self.
But the truth is that the self, the neshama-in-this-body, is an entire world according to Torah.
More than that: Each of us is responsible for this world called “Self.” We’re the stewards of our personal planet’s weather, climate, air and water quality, etc. We’ve been entrusted with protecting and nurturing the environment.
We make choices every day about running our planet. Everything we choose to see, hear, touch, and taste affects our thoughts, and our thoughts shape our world. This self-world is a reality of our own making. Our thoughts actually create our reality, says Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
We recognize that in order to change the world at large we must first change ourselves. This not a selfish task, this is an honest mission, even a brave one.
That’s because changing yourself is the hardest change you’ll ever have to make. But it’s a task that is uniquely yours.
The combined efforts of each of us changing will bring us closer to the geulah. In fact, one mitzvah, one good deed, one act of kindness may literally tip the scale to the side of goodness, and that will lead to the redemption of our larger World.
Yes, it’s reasonable to ask if this focus on self will make us self-centered, entitled or arrogant. But with Breslov Chassidus as your guide, the me-first attitude won’t stand a chance in the long run.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov stresses that humility is key to psycho-spiritual self-improvement. Living with true humility requires us to view ourselves as nearly nothing. But our life mission requires us to view ourselves as the center of the Universe and the reason for Creation. That tightrope-balance between the two creates healthy self-esteem, not narcissism.
Rebbe Nachman says all the World is a narrow bridge–and our personal world qualifies, too.
He says: The entire World is a very narrow bridge–the main thing is not to be afraid.
Don’t be afraid to change and grow.
Your Life Plan
God conferred with your soul before you were born and sought your input on what kind of body you would be born into (disabled? athletic? tall? short?), and what kind of family you’d be born into (supportive? dysfunctional?religious? non-religious?), where you’d grow up, what your innate talents would be, and so on.
During this pow-wow with Hashem, your particular life-plan was created, the one you’re now living, for the purpose of giving your soul the kinds of growth opportunities it needs to find its tikkun (with an emphasis on trying to achieve a complete rectification during your present lifetime.)
When you understand what you’re doing here, we can see it’s not selfish to devote your life to your spiritual growth; it’s the reason for existence.
Personal spiritual growth in Judaism asks of us that we understand our personal role but also asks us to develop our larger role on the cosmic scale of Universal redemption.
This not only necessitates the understanding and caring of ourselves but also the understanding and caring of others. It is an important part of our spiritual growth to give our time, caring, compassion, love, money, and so on to others, and this becomes clearer the more you develop spiritually.
No, it’s not selfish. Go ahead and focus on your spiritual growth. It’s your world. Make it magnificent.