Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Parshat Ekev, 5770

We are a society that fiercely values personal independence and self-sufficiency. It’s part of the American mythos – the great story that we tell ourselves about who we are. Paul Revere, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Calamity Jane – they are the raw material of the American heart.

What is stunning, then, is just how much we rugged individualists expect that other people produce for us.  This demand goes far beyond material goods, for which we are wholly dependent upon others at this stage in our civilization. We also expect that other people will provide us with emotional care (therapy), exciting and challenging experiences (adventure travel), even, especially, spiritual connection on demand.

That we should ask these things of others is not unreasonable: we cannot live without other people; their care and blessing is the stuff of life; we are not islands; however, what troubles the mind is that we often place the burden of the success of these ventures upon their shoulders. The psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp (he wrote, If You Meet the Buddha on The Road, Kill Him!) says about this mode, “It is as if [the patient] comes into the office saying, ‘my world is broken and you have to fix it.’”

Our midrash teaches us that one of the names for the human soul is yehidah: the solitary one, the unique one. It is not our bodies or our ways of living that are unique - we are more similar to each other in these regards than we are different. What is unique is the particular twist of our own heart. Life is made richest in the midst of the care of others, but only we, in the end, carry the responsibility for our own souls.

Shalom u’Vrakha
Peace and Blessing,
Rabbi Scott Perlo

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