Fulfilling Life’s Purpose

Friday, 6 May, 2022 - 2:56 pm

In the winter of 1986 a Jew living in Brooklyn was going through a serious family crisis. A friend suggested he seek advice from the Rebbe but at the time there were no official opportunities for people to interact privately with the Rebbe in person. While written correspondence was certainly an option he felt unable to adequately articulate the nuances of his problem in writing. Although this was not the standard procedure, his friend felt the problem was urgent enough to suggest that he approach the Rebbe outside his home in the morning on his way to “770” Lubavitch World Headquarters. No one would be within earshot and it would be the perfect opportunity.

Heeding his friend’s well intentioned advice, he made the short trip to Crown Heights and as the Rebbe walked toward the waiting car approached and quickly shared his dilemma. The Rebbe stopped, asked some questions and then advised and counseled him until he continued on his way - 10 minutes later!

A group of yeshiva students witnessed the entire exchange from afar and were horrified at this man’s audacity. The Rebbe’s time was extremely precious and to “hold him up” at such an unofficial venue for such a long time was unheard of. When one of them told off the fellow for his breach of protocol he felt terrible and rushed to write a letter to the Rebbe apologizing for his inappropriate use of the Rebbe’s time.

I will paraphrase the Rebbe's written response: The Baal Shem Tov taught that a soul can be sent down to this world to live 70-80 years just in order to do a single favor to another person. “It’s possible that the purpose of my entire life is in order to help you out in your current crisis. Why is this student interfering in my soul’s business?”

In this week’s parsha the Torah states “You shall love your fellow as yourself!” Rabbi Akiva declared this mitzvah is a fundamental or all-inclusive principle of the Torah and the great Hillel before him went further to say that all of Torah is a commentary on this mitzvah. Just as we prioritize our own needs above all else, we must care for another’s material and spiritual needs with the same passion and attention. 

Practically speaking, we will never know which specific favor is the purpose of our soul’s journey in this world. That’s why we need to utilize every opportunity that comes our way. A sage once asked someone running in the marketplace where he was rushing. “To make a living!” the man breathlessly replied. “How do you know your success will come to you in that direction, perhaps you are running away from your source of success which is the opposite direction?”

Even when rushing to keep up with the constant demands of life, be sensitive to your surroundings and make time to interact and help those you encounter who may not be on your official schedule. Who knows? Perhaps they hold the key to your purpose in life.

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