By Eli Bass, Director of Jewish Life
How can I become rich? This is a difficult question I’ve been thinking about at this time of year. I see richness, as a way to compare oneself favorably to those around. This happens with money, clothing, housing, cars and gadgets. As humans material wealth is often the way we attempt to differentiate from those around.
The Jewish book of wisdom, Pirkei Avot, teaches us “Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion”.
This quote forces us to think about how we can never be truly satisfied with- out maximal acquisition. To transcend the rat race feels difficult if not impossible. It is all around us every interaction which we have. Unless we are able to pull ourselves back from a constant need to compare ourselves, we may become stuck.
We can see that this is true for even the most affluent people in the world. There is a human yearning which is hard to fight. We tend to compare ourselves with others. The principle of Pirkei Avot shows us that when someone is enlightened the drive to compile and compare oneself reduces.
The process of growing inner satisfaction is a challenge as we head towards Thanksgiving. That at least for one day we are asked to stop and recognize the blessings which exist in our lives. I see value in the moment of reflection which allows us to appreciate even when we face difficulty. This momentary pause is also a moment to reflect on our own internal talk. How often am I able to recognize blessing? What is bringing me joy and satisfaction? On a greater level, the pause of Thanksgiving allows us to contemplate whether we are living fulfilled lives. Lately, I’ve been fascinated by a Facebook video series called “Nas Daily.” Nuseir Yassin is an Israeli-Palestinian who runs a daily one minute video series. Nas is a Harvard educated 25 year old who was living in New York City and earning $120,000 a year at a tech firm. At the same time, Nas was looking at his life in tech and feeling very empty. Nas looked at his life span and started to calculate the percentage of an average lifespan he had lived. For a minute every day, Nas brings us a one minute video to join him on his journey to try to live days that matter, with a tiny budget. I watch him grow in his identity and skills as he travels and explores the globe.
I watch as he struggles with witnessing poverty and injustice. Nas is able to recognize his privilege and explore new ideas around the world. He also spends time focusing on people who don’t share his financial means or traveling ability.
His travels have forced him to see himself and his community with a new set of eyes. For Nas, traveling has been his route to creating a fulfilling life. His catch phrase speaks to both his brevity and continued story “that’s one minute, see you tomorrow.”
Judaism has a mechanism to reflect on the blessings in our lives. In fact Jewish tradition teaches that each day we are required to give thanks to God for one hundred things. This formal process forces us to slow down and reflect on what to give thanks for. Most food items in Judaism have an individual blessing. So do nice smelling herbs, strange people, fragrant trees and even going to the bathroom.
For those who engage in a regular prayer practice, creating time to intention- ally recognize blessings adds intention to our days. I encourage you to think about how you create moments of gratitude at thanksgiving and around the year. It is my belief that engaging in this process allows us to live deeper and more fulfilled lives.
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!