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Sunday, 5 March 2017

How do you know you're not really a robot?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 41

A large gathering of men is assembled outside the gates of Heaven when the Almighty appears.
“I want you all to form two lines,” says G-d, “one line for the men who were true heads of their household, and the other line for those whose wives ruled the roost.”  Soon, there were two lines of men.  The line of men who were led by their wives was 100 miles long, and in the line of men who truly were heads of their household, stood only one man.

G-d looks at the long line and bellows, “You men should be ashamed of yourselves. I created you to be the heads of your household!  Of all of you, only one obeyed?  You blokes need to learn from him!”  And with that, He turns to the single fellow in the other line and asks, “My beloved child, please tell us, how did you manage to make it into this line, thereby fulfilling your holy destiny?”
“I really don’t know,” replies the man sheepishly, “my wife told me to stand here!”

Any chazakah (legal presumption of ownership due to having occupied a property) not accompanied by an officially lodged legal claim is not considered a chazakah.  How so?  Let’s say the original owner says to the occupant, ‘What are you doing in my house?’  And he replies, ‘Because nobody ever told me not to be here,’ that is not considered a chazakah.  If, however, he replies, ‘You sold it to me,’ or ‘you gifted it to me,’ he makes a valid chazakah claim.

How did you get to where you are today?  How did you choose your profession?  How did you choose your place to live?  How did you choose your religious lifestyle?

Some of us are here simply because we went with the flow and ended up in a certain place without ever giving much thought to it.  It was always pretty obvious that you would end up doing what you do, living where you do, hanging out with the people you do, practicing your Judaism as you do.  That’s what everyone you’ve ever know ever did!

But that’s not reason enough to live life.  That’s not human, it’s robotic!  If you’re here simply because someone told you to be here and nobody ever told you not to be here, that’s by no means a chazakah – it’s not a strong, powerful way to live your life.  Maybe that someone was a parent, a rebbe (schoolteacher), a rabbi in your yeshiva year in Israel.  You might think that you made a conscious-life decision, but the real test is what happens to your commitment when life happens?

What happens when a career upset forces you out of your hometown?  What happens when your child isn’t doing well in the school that everyone you know sends their kids to?  What happens when the community isn’t there for you when you need them the most?

Real chazakah requires relentless reassessment – constantly asking yourself: Who am I?  How did I get here?  Am I in the best place possible in life?  Am I maximizing my potential here on Earth?  Am I pulling my weight in the community or just occupying a seat and letting everyone else take care of things for me?  Am I contributing as much as I could to being the most awesome spouse, parent, child, sibling, neighbor, colleague, community member, Jew, citizen, and human being?

You are not a robot.  The Almighty placed you here to make this world the best place possible.  You have a unique mission to fulfil and it’s impossible to get there if you simply go with the flow.  Every morning when you wake up, ask yourself: How can I maximize my potential today?  Every evening when you go to sleep, ask yourself: How did I maximize my potential today?  If the answer is ever: I’m here because I just happened to be born into this life, it’s an automatic sign that you’re nowhere near reaching your potential.  And it’s time to make serious changes in your life and serious commitments to your mission.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that you’re constantly looking over your shoulder to see where the grass is greener in life.  When you’re never happy with where the Almighty has placed you, you will never fulfil your potential.  Rather, it means maximizing your current potential – becoming the best person possible in the circumstances in which you find yourself – and then asking yourself what more Heaven might be asking of you.

Don’t go with the flow, lead the flow!  You have a unique mission to fulfil and your current place in life is merely a springboard to achieving your incredible destiny.  May you constantly work to maximize your potential!

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