The great Rabbi Hillel was known to say, “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?”
Though stated more than 20 centuries ago, Hillel’s words sound like great, middle-of-the-road advice to all of us. Basically, it sounds like Hillel is telling us, “You have to look out for number one, but make sure not to forget that there are other people in the world, too.”
Actually, though, Hillel wasn’t talking about our typical pursuits; he was giving us a deep insight into how we should view our involvement in spiritual pursuits and lofty goals.
On a more personal level, it is a statement about how we must be self-motivated when it comes to Judaism. I can’t expect anyone else to take me by the hand and lead me, step by step, toward growth and advancement. I have to do it myself. I can’t sit back, relax, and wait to be inspired by an amazing teacher or encouraged by a friend. It’s up to me: If I am not for myself, who is for me?
To be more specific, we can’t expect G-d to be the one to push us, either. I can’t say, “If G-d really wanted me to give lots of charity, have time to pursue Jewish studies, and not work on Shabbat, He’d arrange for me to win the lottery.” Or, “If G-d wants me to do this particular mitzva, He’ll remove all obstacles from my path.”
On the other hand, if I am only for myself, if I am so caught up with and involved in my own personal growth and advancement, that I’m not around to help or guide others, what am I?
Let us unite together to become even more involved in our shule activities and events, which will see our Shule grow and become even stronger.
David Rebibou, President GCHC.