Life brings many questions: Why do some people have such difficult lives,
while others have it so easy? Why is there so much suffering in the world?
Why are there so many tragic deaths?
To make sense out life, we need understanding, to gain understanding we need
perspective. Let’s begin with a parable:
A famous actor receives a call from his agent.
“Listen, Jack we just got a great offer. Tons of money, an all cash
deal, you get the star role, playing next to the greatest co -stars in the
industry. But the best part of it is the plot, it’s great. The story line
really clicks, it’s a guaranteed Oscar. I’m sending the script over this
morning. Tell me what you think.”
After reading the script Jack calls his agent back.
“Listen Bob, forget it, no deal”.
“What do mean?”
“I mean it’s no way, no deal. I won’t do it.”
“Jack what is it? Is it the script?”
“No, the script is fine?”
“Is it the other actors?”
“No, they’re fine too.”
“So Jack, what is it?”
“What is it? Bob, don’t you get it? The guy that you want me to play is
penniless and not too bright either. More than that, he’s a jerk! I can’t
stand anyone seeing me that way.”
“But Jack, that’s only the part you are playing, it’s not you.”
“Bob, forget it, doing this production means everyone, I mean millions of
people are going to see me as a creep, and a down and out. I can’t stand the
embarrassment. Don’t even ask me again, I’m not doing it.”
And he hangs up.
Obviously, this conversation never took place. Because any actor, as well as
any person going to the theater, understands that those people up there on
the stage are there playing their parts. They aren’t judged by how wealthy
or poor they are in the play. They aren’t judged by whether their role
portrays a life of success or failure. There is one criterion for judging an
actor: how well did he play his part. If his role is to play the part of an
Idiot Savant, and he does it convincingly, he will win awards for his
performance. If his role is to be the most successful man in the world and
he isn’t real, the critics will rip him to shreds. He is there for only one
purpose—to play his role. The characters has this type of personality, is
from this type of background, has this level of intelligence—now go out
there and play the part.
This is a parable to life. Each of us was given an exact set of
circumstances, and a specific set of criteria. The backdrop is laid out and
we are given the task of playing the role. Born into a particular time
period, to a specific family, given an exact set of parameters – you will be
so tall, so intelligent, have so much of this talent and so much of this
one. Now, go out there and do it! Live your life, ford those streams, cross
those rivers, and sail those seas! Live up to your potential. At the end of
your days you will be judged- but not you compared to me—nor me compared to
you: you will be judged by a far more demanding yardstick, you will be
measured by how close you came to accomplishing all that you were capable of.
The Vilna Gaon, tells us that the most painful moment in a person’s life is
after you leave this earth; when you stand before the heavenly tribunal, and
they hold up a picture for you to look at; a picture of a truly exceptional
individual—a person of sterling character traits, who shows intelligence,
kindliness, and humility – a person of true greatness. And they say, why
didn’t you do what he did?
Me?! Little me? What do you want from me? Was I some kind of genius? Was I
some kind of powerful leader of men? How could I have done those things?
And they answer the most telling and most troubling line a person will ever
hear: that picture is you. Not you, as you stand here now. Not you as you
have lived your life. But, that is you had you accomplished what you were
put on this earth to do. That is you, had you become what you were destined
They don’t ask how much money you made. How attractive you were. How
popular. Those are the stage settings of life—hand chosen by HASHEM as the
perfect environment to allow you to reach your potential. Whether you were
smarter, or richer, or more talented then the next person is irrelevant, the
only issue is: How much did you accomplish compared to—you, compared to what
you were capable of.
Most of the serious life questions we ask come from the assumption that this
life we now lead is the end all and be all of existence. As if my station
now in this world is the reason for creation.
From that perspective very little in life makes sense. Certainly not pain,
suffering, or the inequitable distribution of talent and opportunity.
However, once a person widens their perspective, to understand that we were
created, to grow, to accomplish, and in the end we will be rewarded – judged
by only one criterion: how much I grew, in relation to my potential—then
life begins to make sense.
HASHEM custom designed a set of circumstances for each individual to give
him the ultimate setting for his growth and perfection. Not every situation
is pleasant – but they are needed to shape us, or give us the opportunity to
grow. Once we understand this point, life itself takes on a very different
meaning and a person can focus on the purpose of life: fulfilling our
mission and purpose in existence.
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.