> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Brainstorming with Baars

Really Needy People

Chukat-Balak (Numbers 19:1-25:9 )

by Rabbi Stephen Baars

Back in the 1970s there was a hit song, "People who need people." The lyrics went on to say that these kind of people are the luckiest people in the world.

Somehow I don't think the "needy" people at traffic lights holding up signs, "Homeless: Need food" are very lucky. If needy people are so lucky, why do we lock the car doors when they get close? I don't see parents telling their children, "One day you might grow up to be one of them... if you are lucky!"

This leads to an interesting question, who are the really lucky people?

Don't tell me it's the people who win the lottery, because the stories are countless of fortune winners ruining their lives.

The people who have truly lucked out on life are the people who are needed by people.

In this week's parsha, Miraim dies and immediately the well that had supplied the Jewish people's water for 40 years ceased. It is from here that we learn that the Jewish people had this well on Miriam's merit - millions of people needed her for 40 years.

I often ask couples who come in for counseling if they could ever leave their children.

"Of course not," comes the stern reply, "they need me so much!"

Five minutes later that same parent will exclaim, "It's not my kids who are the problem, it's my husband, he is so neeeeedy!"

The same thing, which is endearing in your child, is the cause for all kinds of marital discord.

What gives?

First, being needed is the ultimate expression of self fulfillment. A human being enters this world with nothing to offer, and their goal on this good earth is to leave it being needed. What a tragedy it would be if we died and no one noticed.

Second, our sense of self worth is directly related to how needed we are.

A student of mine told me of her father who fed the poor of his town. Single-handedly, he ensured his entire small village had no one who went to sleep hungry. When he died, the whole town closed down.

I will share with you one of my goals. When I die, I want the world to stop. In other words, I want to be needed.

Third, is to recognize our own internal dichotomy. On the one hand we want to be called upon to fulfill some eternal destiny, and on the other we want to be left alone and not bothered.

You just can't have both.

Imagine if the President of the United States called you personally to fulfill a mission that no one else can do.

How would you feel? The truth is that if no one else could really do it, then you might not appreciate being called upon.

The reason is that the more we perfect ourselves and offer to the world our unique characteristics for which we have been placed on this planet, then the more people will call on us to share it with them.

Because of this, the novelty will soon give way to a feeling of annoyance. "Can't these people just leave me alone?"

And they can't. Because no one can do what you can do.

And therefore, if we think about it we will realize that our children need us for things that are not unique to us. Their needs are generically the same regardless of who are their parents and therefore their demands are not as draining.

Not so for a spouse. We marry each other for qualities we don't have and therefore our need for them is unique to them. Similarly, their need for us is unique to us.

At some point in your life you are going to have to decide between being needed or being left alone. You can't feel a real sense of meaning or purpose unless you are surrounded by people who need you. Alternatively, if the people around you don't need you, you will feel immense unimportance.

As I said to a very wealthy person who was complaining why people needed him so much, "It could be much worse."

"How could it be worse?" He asked.

I responded, "You could have nothing that people need."

If the people around you need you, then you are where you ought to be. And if the people around you don't need you, then find some really needy people.

* * *


Question 1: Who do you know who is needed the most?

Question 2: Who needs you the most?

Question 3: Who do you need the most, and why?


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