Sunday, February 28, 2010

Good Advice

Everyone has, within them, something Judaism calls the yetzer hara, the evil inclination. When someone tells you to do something good, you immediately get the urge to do something bad. Like, you know you have to lose 30 pounds, but you still buy a chocolate bar. Not that I know about that personally, of course.

Today, during the holiday of Purim, we are obligated to be happy. So what's the first thing I wanted to do? Be sad. Be distressed. Worry about school, assignments, my children's grades. I have to admit, I have one heck of a yetzer hara.

I think that's why the Rabbis made it mandatory to be happy today. Because human nature is such, that if you do good things, you will become a good person. I remember a story I once heard about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, z'l that was so powerful, it has stuck with me for nearly 25 years.

A young woman once came to Rebbe, desperate for advice. She told him, "I'm not a nice person. How do I become a nice person?" He told her that to be a nice person, you have to do nice things. She couldn't understand the advice. This was a woman who went to psychologists with the same question. So the Rebbe looked at her and said, "the next time you sit down to eat and you need a napkin, get a napkin for everyone else at your table, whether they ask you or not."

The young woman was overwhelmed by the simplicity. Years of trying to figure out why she wasn't a nice person didn't make her a nice person. Doing something nice for someone else is the only way she could achieve her goal.

The moral of the story: we are how we act, not how we think. Thoughts don't feed the homeless, giving the homeless food feeds them. No one needs to be reminded of that more than me. All the nail-biting and whining in the world isn't going to finish my homework. It's going to take me, and my pencil or pen or computer, to make that dream a reality.

I believe the Holy One gave us free will so we could choose to do good and appreciate the choice. When in doubt, take action. For better or worse, we learn from what we do. And it gets us closer to being the person we want to be.

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