A revered rabbi once journeyed to visit a younger rabbi who known for his religious devotion. The older rabbi was very much impressed with the young man’s total immersion in prayer and study. The older rabbi asked the secret of his unwavering piety. The younger man replied that by concentrating deeply on his studies, he was able to ignore any outside influences that might distract him. Indeed, the older man had noticed that may of the nearby villagers were involved in activities that were quite contrary to piety.
The revered rabbi reflected and then advised the younger man, “When it is very cold, there are two ways to warm yourself. One is by putting on a fur coat, the other is by lighting a fire. The difference is that the fur coat warms only the person wearing it, while the fire warms anyone who comes near.”
Consider these words as you reflect on this reality: each of us has been given distinct talents and abilities, and it is our opportunity, and indeed responsibility, to share them in a positive way. A leader must lead, a teacher must teach, a writer must write. A skill that we take for granted may fill an indispensable need for someone else or may have a far greater impact than we could have imagined. It is our obligation to ask ourself regularly how we can use our unique abilities to improve the world.
Sometimes we will see the effect of our help, but often we will not; it does not mater. We may feel frustrated and helpless, as if we had been asked to move the entire ocean one spoonful at a time. But it is not only the result that counts; it is our effort, and the sincerity behind the effort, that fulfills our innate need to be responsible. And ultimately, every effort does bear fruit.
We are now in the last month of the Hebrew calendar year the powerful month of Elul. This month has been observed for thousands of years as a time, a key, to unlocking the inner and most potent meaning of our heart. It is a time to reflect – a time to review our deeds. We look back at our spiritual progress over the past twelve months as we prepare for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. If you did a good deed yesterday, do two good deeds today!