Understanding Life Settings
Football Player Put Back into Flabby Tycoon’s Body
There was a novel written a number of years ago that opens with a young,
professional football player who is preparing for the upcoming Super Bowl
game. He is riding his bike on a country road to get into shape for the big
game, and he enters a long curving tunnel. Unbeknownst to him, a car is
speeding into the tunnel from the opposite direction, heading directly for him.
The angel of death on duty that day is new to the job. He sees the crash
coming and decides, “Why wait? Why make him go through the gore and the
mess?” So instead of actually waiting for the inevitable crash, he takes the
football player out of his body at the very last moment before the accident,
and brings him up to Heaven.
However, the angel of death made a mistake. Any normal person driving his
bike through that tunnel would have crashed and been killed. But this man
was an athlete with highly keen instincts; he would have veered off at the
last minute and not been hit. He should be alive. But it’s too late. His
body is buried; he is up in Heaven. What do they do now?
The Heavenly court meets and decides they have no choice but to send him
back. To do that, they have to find someone whose time is up and put the
football player back into that body. The closest they can come up with is a
rich tycoon living in an exclusive mansion. So this athlete finds himself in
the flabby body of a wealthy snob with an entire staff of butlers and maids.
The cute part of the story is how he plans to get his sagging, pampered, new
body into shape for the Super Bowl only weeks away. He gets the prim and
proper servants to run football drills with him on the front lawn of the
stately mansion as he practices his passes.
While this is a charming story, it illustrates a significant concept: that
football player found himself occupying a body. He opened his eyes and found
himself in a life.
That exact experience happened to every one of us. Hashem took us and
hand-selected a life to be the ideal setting for us to allow us to grow. We
were put into this body and told, “Go live your life!”
We Don’t Get To Choose
We tend to take far too much credit for that which was given to us, and too
much blame for what wasn’t. No one woke up one morning and said, “Hashem, I
think you should create me with a 180 IQ… No, make that an 80 IQ.” “Hashem,
I think I should be 6′2″, strapping and strong. No, on second thought, I
would rather be 5′4″, puny and weak.”
Our life settings have been chosen for us, and we have no input in the
process. Smart or dumb, attractive or ordinary, talented or not. These are
the backdrops against which we live our lives, the scenery and landscape
that surrounds us. But they don’t define us.
Just as our external conditions are set, so, too, is much of our inner
makeup. Our temperament has been hard-wired into us at birth. Studies show
that whether a child is bold or timid, extroverted or shy, can be determined
at twenty-two months of age. It is simply the nature the child is born with.
Granted, a person can work on himself. He can learn to overcome weaknesses
and change the level of some of his personality traits. But each individual
was given a certain predisposition and tendencies at birth. These are part
of the stage settings of his life. He was born into a role, and this is the
backdrop against which he plays.
And that is the point — no one gets to choose. Each individual is born into
an exact generation, into a given family, in a specific birth order, with a
precise family dynamic. That might include a domineering older brother or a
whiny younger sister. It might mean being born with a silver spoon in your
mouth or into the grip of poverty. Introverted or extroverted, bold or
timid, robust or weak, tall or short, handsome or not. With specific talents
and abilities, and an exact level of intelligence, each person is placed
into the ideal setting for him. Our lives fit us like a hand in a glove,
with each situation custom-designed by our Creator for that individual.
When a person understands this, life itself is fair. If not, then it makes
no sense at all. How do you explain why some people have it so easy and yet
others have it so hard? Why are some people born talented and others not?
Why are some people born crippled? Or deaf or blind? Why is there autism in
the world? What about polio?
If our condition in this world really mattered, there would be no answer to
these questions. If this world were the reason for Creation, then none of
these situations would be fair. But that is the point: none of them matter;
they are simply different life settings. We are but actors on the stage. Our
role is to play our part — rich or poor, handsome or ugly, successful or
not. We aren’t judged by the part we play, but how we play it. The role is
irrelevant. The props don’t define us. The only thing that matters is what
we do with our time on this planet.
Text Copyright © 2011 by Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier and Torah.org
This is an excerpt from the new Shmuz on Life book: Stop Surviving, Start Living. It is powerful, thought provoking, and life changing. The book is available for purchase at Judaica stores, Feldheim.com and TheShmuz.com.