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Stop Caring About Others!

Friday, 7 June, 2019 - 11:37 am

If you have flown on a major airline recently you will notice that the boring safety videos are gone.

In an effort to get you to actually pay attention to the screen, they have been replaced with hilarious or outrageous videos.

As I sometimes travel with children, I am mindful of one constant instruction. In case of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. The logic is simple. If you don’t have adequate oxygen you may not be in position to help others.

Let’s forget for a moment about the parental instincts. Instead let’s ask a more fundamental question. Should you be focused on helping yourself or others?


Stop thinking about what you can do for others.

Yes, I know it sounds harsh.

But, in a sense, this is the message of Shavuot.

Let me explain.


Shavuot is observed this Sunday. It is one of the Shalosh Regalim, the three pilgrimage festivals. A focal point of Shavuot is the Giving of the Torah.

On Shavuot we study the Book of Ruth. Ruth was an immigrant, a pauper and a convert. Read the Book of Ruth. It’s only four chapters long. Her story is an amazing journey of determination and devotion.

Why do we read this on Shavuot?

Simply put, on Shavuot we are all converts, newly accepting the Torah and the tenets of Judaism.

Digging a bit deeper, the Book of Ruth is really our own story.

Eventually Ruth married and became the great-grandmother of King David. In fact, the Moshiach (Messiah) will be a descendant of Ruth.

Hers is the true story of rages to (spiritual) riches. A stranger became a princess, the matriarch of Jewish royalty.

And, this is why we read her story on Shavuot.

You see, Shavuot is very different from Pesach and Sukkot. During other Festivals we are focused on how G-d helped us and, therefore, we must help others. We remember that we were slaves and strangers. It motivates us to activism on behalf of the oppressed and less fortunate.

On Shavuot it’s a different story. It’s a time for us to think about our own relationship with G-d. It’s time to study Torah – not only as a tool to inspire us to serve others – but as a centerpiece of our own spiritual identity.

It’s time to recognize that I am the stranger. I am the immigrant. I am the pauper.  I have deficiencies in my own life. I have challenges. I am imperfect. And, I refuse to allow my own soul to flounder in the name of helping others.

Like Ruth, if I am devoted and determined, my future is bright as can be.

Indeed, I am the stranger. I’m also a princess-in-waiting.

On Shavuot, heaven kissed earth. An infinite G-d packaged His infinite wisdom into a finite Torah to be shared with finite beings.

On Shavuot, my potential to be the precious gem that G-d has created shines brilliantly. All that’s needed is for me to recognize this and utilize the precious gem that G-d has gifted me.

Happy Shavuot.

Or, as the Chassidic blessing goes: May you receive the Torah with joy and internalization!

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