Sunday, August 10, 2014


Are you clear about your priorities in life?

As people mature, they begin to formulate achievable goals. Then one can look back and evaluate what was accomplished and what was missed.  According to the Babylonian Talmud (the repository of Jewish wisdom compiled in the 6th cent. CE), at the final judgment one is asked three basic questions: Did you conduct your business with integrity? Did you set aside fixed times for study? Did you hope for better things to come? (Shab. 31a). Each one is worth thinking about. 

1.Carry out your business with Integrity:

It is good to be ambitious in life, because it encourages one to get better. However, excessive craving is dangerous. The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm once wrote, “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever achieving satisfaction.” Vaulting ambition often leads to vanity and disappointment. It is better, as one ancient Rabbi suggested, to reach a point where one is content with one’s own lot (Mishnah, Avot 4: 1). Everyone is entitled to make a living, but for the sake of one’s peace of mind, this should be done with integrity, honesty and without covetousness.

2. Set up a fixed time to study:

“None is poor but he who lacks knowledge,” said an ancient sage (Ned. 41a). The ancient Rabbis knew the value of study, not only because it stimulates the mind and provides answers to many unknowns in life, but also because it often leads to correct behavior. The final goal in life is not mental gymnastics but carrying out deed of loving-kindness towards others. 

3.Hope for better things to come:

There is a Hebrew term that can refer to this hopeful outlook: yeshuah, literally meaning “salvation”. Even though this word has been understood differently throughout the ages, for me, it means self-realization, namely, to reach one’s highest potential in life. To become better, you need to keep the flame of hope alive. Some people tend to be worriers. They see the cup half-empty. Others are more open-minded and hopeful. They see the cup half-full. The ideal is to develop a balanced approach that is based on a healthy optimism and a sense of reality, which will enable us to go forward with courage, and reach the best of what we can.

So, in order to live a life of blessing, ask yourself what is most important for me, and how to achieve it. Do it now. It is a worthy endeavor.

Rifat Sonsino

August, 2014