For the Sake of Others

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.By Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D

Sitting in my study I began reading a book about the life of Albert Einstein. To say that he was an interesting person would be to understate his importance or the impact he had on humanity with his Theory of Relativity – the concept of time and space. To this day scientist are trying to disprove his understanding of the universe and our part in it.

But, how many, I wonder know the other side of him? The side that deals with humaneness is something to marvel at. He writes, “Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we know:

That we are here for the sake of others…Above all, for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy.

Many times a day I realize how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”

I could not help but think as I read these words how much of an impact we have on the lives of those we come in contact with each and every day. We probably will never truly know to what extent we actually comfort those in need or help those looking for togetherness. Each and every time we gather either for prayer or celebration or sorrowful happenings, we can see the faces and realize the aura of contentment and satisfaction.

And, sometimes, we come in contact with someone who has an impact on us. Someone who by their expressions can make us realize that we are important and therefore needed.

I met such a person. His name is George Galstad. He is an educated man and even contemplated, in his early years, to answer the call that God had given him. Perhaps he turned a deaf ear. It happens occasionally that we hear something that frightens us or is beyond our comprehension. George was no exception.

He reminded me of Moses and his response to the summons given by God. Not only was Moses reluctant to answer the call and even argued with God to find someone more suitable for the daunting task that lie ahead.

His philosophy of life is quite simple: To be the best person you can be without becoming a burden to others. He has definite ideas about politics and yet is amenable to understanding different viewpoints. He is determined and yet flexible; frugal and very generous; amiable and at the same time withdrawn. No, he is not a complex person, just one who has travelled the road of life and, as we so often do, found a bump or two that gave him pause.

I mention my friend George because our theological approaches are so different and yet when we settle on a subject that holds his interest he is willing to learn and teach at the same time. I have learned a great deal from his experiences and I enjoy visiting with him several times a week over a cup of coffee. There are others in our little coffee group and each contributes to the discussions that take place but George seems to put things into proper perspective giving us all the opportunity to think and react.

Surprisingly enough even though we are of different faiths we seem to have much more in common than some would imagine. He has felt estranged and disconnected and then we extended our hands to find that there are other hands and even a smile or comforting nod that awakens in all of us a true feeling of connection.

It is impossible to be all things to all people, but that doesn’t mean we should not keep trying. Personalities notwithstanding, we are all linked in a chain of human needs and yearnings that we inherited from generations past. And each of us brings to the table different talents that blend together to form a realization that we cannot do without each other.

Einstein was correct in many things but most of all in his assessment that we are here for the sake of others. Our happiness is dependent on this assumption, and the fulfillment of a meaningful life corresponds to our understanding the connection for which we were created.

We cannot achieve complete happiness if we are not willing to share the experience with others. Of what value is contentment if we have no one to feel the excitement or the euphoria of accomplishment?

We need to give as well as receive. We need to be able to communicate in order to be able to listen. We are nothing without someone else participating in our joys and sorrows. We all need a George Galstad to find truth in expression and leave feeling that we are better for having known him.

I believe that is what Einstein meant when he tried to encourage us to feel good about ourselves while at the same time trying to make others feel good as well.

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