By: Rabbi Mendy Wolf
The story is told of a group of mountain climbers who had their hearts set on reaching the peak of a very tall mountain. They trained for years, practicing in harsh climates, scaling smaller mountains. One day, they thought they were finally ready. Supplied with essentials and filled with excitement, they set out for the long climb.
After many difficult days, the group finally reached the summit. Their satisfaction was complete – they had achieved their great goal, realizing a dream of years. Suddenly, to their shock, they sighted a young boy sitting comfortably on a rock. Here they had trained for years to scale the mountain; how had he gotten there?
In response to their questions, the lad stated simply, “I was born here.”
Imagine you were that child, fortunate to be given what others needed to labor arduously to accomplish. How would you feel? Would you be grateful? Would you take it for granted? Would you feel superior to others?
Now stop imagining. You are that boy. Yes, we are each born with unique talents and capabilities which enable us to reach heights that remain out of reach for others. Every one of us is born at the top of some mountain, be it intellect, physical strength, creativity or anything else.
It is easy to feel that we own our achievements. We pride ourselves on a job well done. We consider ourselves deserving of the profits of our labor. Charity? It’s my money! Gratitude? For what? This is all my work!
This week’s Torah portion exhorts us not to fall into that trap of entitlement. When we start thinking, “My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth,” we are to remember that our strength was, after all, given to us by G-d.
Yes, we may work hard, and for that we deserve recognition. But let us not forget that we received a head start. We may have cut a great deal, but it was only because we received a “lead”. We were born at the top of a mountain: Our efforts, however laudable, really build upon the talents and capabilities we were given, gratis.
Rabbi Mendy Wolf is the educational director for the Institute of American & Talmudic Law, and the director for Project Life, an organization which promotes Jewish values throughout the business community in NYC. R’ Mendy is a sought after teacher and lecturer and resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and family. Contact Rabbi Mendy to book him to speak or with feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.