Overcoming Loss through Reconnection
Now is the time to feel a relentless responsibility to create meaning in our lives and reconnect to what really matters.
Growing up, I took almost everything in my life for granted – my health, my home, my education, the opportunities that were given to me. Without realizing it, I naively assumed that I was entitled to the privileges in my life.
Because I was the daughter of a Supreme Court Judge, I didn’t even know what it was like to wait on line anywhere, not at the doctor’s office and not at the DMV. When my husband and I made aliyah and waited on our first three-hour line at a government office, only to be told when we reached the front of the line that we had the wrong documents, I was dumbfounded. Didn’t they know who I was?
Well, I’ve learned the basic truth that life doesn't owe me anything.
Entitlement not only made me ungrateful, it disconnected me from an even more significant truth: I owe something to life, to myself, to my community. I owe something to the world.
Entitlement disconnects us from ourselves, from the people around us and from God. And feeling a relentless responsibility to give and to create meaning in our lives reconnects us to what matters.
On the 17th Tammuz, the walls of Jerusalem were breached, starting the destruction of the epicenter of our spiritual lives and disconnecting us from everything that mattered. During the period of The Three Weeks that begins with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz and culminates with Tisha B’Av, we mourn that sense of disconnection from ourselves, from God and from each other.
Recognizing the pain of being disconnected from meaning and purpose in our lives is the first step to reconnecting to our authentic selves and to the gifts that we have to give to the world. The essence of that reconnection is believing that we are each obligated to share our unique gifts, that we are each responsible to create meaning in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Here are four ways to reconnect.
Be grateful for your strengths and use them. Recognize that the resources and talents that we have are our tools to use to impact the world. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe once said, “If God gave you these talents, you must utilize them all in fulfilling your personal role and mission. This is not your personal matter which you may treat as you wish. These talents, these opportunities, if they are left unused, they are in vain.”
Share your knowledge. When you learn something new or know a piece of wisdom, teach it and share it. If you read or hear something meaningful, share it. Knowledge is power. We have a responsibility to share what we know. That’s why the mitzvah to learn Torah also includes the mitzvah to teach Torah.
Recognize what it means to be a Jew. Every morning we thank God for creating us as Jews. But being a Jew is not just a privilege, it is also an obligation. We are responsible not only for ourselves but for everyone and everything around us. We were given the gift of the Torah and Judaism not just to improve our own lives but to be a light for the world. As the mishna in Ethics of the Fathers says, “You are not obligated to complete the task but neither are you free to abandon it.”
Know where you come from. Our ancestors have left each of us a unique legacy and chain of traditions that we are responsible to pass on to the next generation. After he survived the Holocaust, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau focused on the obligation he felt to contribute to the Jewish people, not despite but because of the enormous loss he experienced. He came from a long line of Rabbis that stretched back for generations in his family and he believed that it was his responsibility to carry on the torch of his family’s legacy.
Rabbi Lau reminds himself every day: “Yisrael… now your task is to justify the fact that you were saved. You must carry out your parents’ mission; you must keep the chain unbroken. This is from whence you came.”
We are all part of the chain of our nation that has fought to overcome the darkness in our world that is without the light of our holy Temple. We yearn to reconnect to the place within us that can create meaning for ourselves and for those around us. As Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning: “Each man is questioned by life, and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life, to life he can only respond by being responsible.”