Appraise Thyself!
Rivka Olenick
The best and most effective way to ensure spiritual growth is honest self-appraisal. It is very easy to avoid this task, especially when we can use the excuse that life now is so uncertain so "why bother." To the contrary, this is exactly why one should be involved in on going self-appraisal. The important questions a person should ask oneself is: Do I know myself? Am I living my life according to the purpose I was created for? These are the most essential questions and very often never asked. If each Jewish person understood themself, understood that they were created for a specific purpose they would have a great sense of emotional freedom. No one would be an emotional slave, so to speak.
Most people suffer from a continuous need for approval from others. This need for approval could be diminished if one understood that this need for approval is our biggest enemy. Very few people escape this, but only because a person does not make the effort to appraise oneself. We put great effort in pursuing most everything else in life i.e. career, money, etc. but how much effort does a person invest in the self? Once a person finds the courage to do this, one begins to see their flaws, and they can make an honest attempt to change.
Many people are locked into patterns and do not believe they can change. "This is who I am!" Other people's flaws bother them terribly but their own they easily rationalize. Even one small change in thinking can evolve into a large successful breakthrough that can continue. A person's intense desire for material gain would begin to diminish if one understood that endless material gain is really based on the need of approval from others. The more one has the more one becomes the envy of those around him. Except that this is all a trap that people spend a lifetime in. This person is truly a slave, because he lives entirely for other's approval.
The appropriate investment in the self and in God is not being made and unfortunately even missed altogether. So what is the point of life? What does the person really gain in life? In truth, the person that has much less is really more satisfied. If one honestly accepts their lot in life then he/she can really see the good in their life. A person can see that they have what they need to sustain oneself and family. One has faith and trust that God will continue to provide since God has provided for one's needs so far.
In having less a person should truly rejoice because God has given him/her the easier path - "Marbeh nichasim, marbeh daageh", "increase in possession increases anxiety." (Ethics of the Fathers).The path that provides greater peace of mind, one does not lose sleep because of overwhelming responsibility and the need to follow the crowd in false security. Understanding this honestly is really a blessing. Think about it, how much do you really need above your basic needs? Of course, each person has to recognize this truth instead of denying it. A person has to really see it, one should force oneself to see it, instead of complaining that they are deprived, that others have so much more and why has God done this to me?
Unfortunately, we are steeped in a culture that is based on endless acquisition and pleasure. However, even this is not an excuse because if one thinks into this honestly, one realizes that the error one made is in not placing their security in God, but placing one's security in "things." The more things a person has, the more approval they will get from others and the more approval they will continue to need from others. This is really a "false" sense of security yet it can easily become a lifelong vicious cycle. This is what happens if a person misuses one's true gift of freedom. The true gift of freedom was given to each of us as the real purpose of our life. The gift is to serve the Creator, not man and not one's ego. After all, it is God Who created the world and the human being; so doesn't it make sense that God would know better how the human being should live? Hasn't God provide us with a way in which to live?
Every person should make the decision to work hard on appraising themselves in order to free themselves so that they can serve God. "Everything is in the hands of God, except for the fear of God." (Talmud in Berachos, 33b). God allowed you to live up until this point in time and so one's future lies in God's hands and also in our own. How we decide to live our life from this point on is up to us. Meaning, that we can participate in remolding our future by using our free will and choosing a way of life that brings the greatest advantage and freedom. The freedom to serve God is the ultimate freedom. It requires no approval from others. Those who claim they can tell your future by reading your palm or your handwriting or by any other way is total nonsense. There is the path of truth and there is the path of fantasy. Do you want to live in reality, and discover the great truths that lie in God's universe or do you want to continue to live in your own little, safe fantasy world?
"Close each day with a self-examination to see if you've gone forward or backward. Don't excuse yourself in anything and tell yourself that tomorrow you will make a greater effort. Let everyone see one's own reflection in the Torah and learn from it what one should have been and how one should have acted, with one's capacities and one's resources and powers, in this and that environment, in this and that time and place." Samson Raphael Hirsch, from Horeb.




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