In what has become the most over-quoted Biblical passage in the history of mankind, the Torah teaches us in this week's double portion – “Ve'ahavta l'rayacha kamocha - Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).
If you look carefully at those oft repeated words, you will notice that there is a major assumption being made by the Torah - that you love yourself. You are then being asked to love your neighbor in the very same way.
The truth is that while the Torah does ask us to love our neighbor, it need not command us to love ourselves. For without loving ourselves and appreciating who we are first, there can be no true love of others or even of G-d.
In fact, the most important relationship we will ever have is with ourselves.
And only after we have worked on that relationship and developed a good sense of self – we know who we are and what we truly want out of life – can we then begin to form a real, meaningful relationship with someone else who is compatible with ourselves and who shares similar goals.
Our commitment to Judaism and our relationship with G-d can also only be genuine and sincere if we take the time to get to know ourselves first. The very first step in the process of spiritual growth and character development – which is the entire purpose of Torah study and Mitzvah observance – is to properly assess our strengths and our weaknesses, our wants and our needs, etc.
The problem is, though, that we often go through life thinking that we have a great relationship with ourselves, and that we know exactly who we are and where we want to be – when, in fact, we really don’t have a clue as to who we truly are, and have simply been blinded by all that the world out there has to offer, leading us to mistakenly believe that we are something that we are not, and that we want something that’s really not for us.
So we go about our lives, forming relationships with people who are really only compatible with the person we perceive ourselves to be and project to others – but with no basis in reality – often with tragic consequences. A couple of years (and maybe a couple of kids) later, we wake up to the realization that we never really had a good relationship with ourselves and a sophisticated understanding of who we are, and that what we truly want out of life is something entirely different.
So you can see how important and absolutely crucial it is for us to develop a good relationship with ourselves, and to gain a clear understanding of who we are and what we want out of life, without allowing ourselves to be blinded to our own reality by the various attractions that the world at large has to offer.
It is to this end that I have prepared a set of four questions which are designed to help us cut through the “outer layers” of our perceived self, in order to gain clarity as to who we truly are inside.
Take a few moments to examine the questions and then answer them to the best of your ability. You will find – if you are honest with yourself - that the answers that you give to these four questions accurately represent your true self and what you really want out of life.
And once you have a good understanding of your real essence and life goals – and your relationship with yourself is honest and genuine – you can then go on to pursue other meaningful relationships secure in the knowledge that what you’re looking for is exactly what you need and truly want.
WHO AM I REALLY AND WHAT DO I WANT OUT OF LIFE?
A “REALITY CHECK” SELF-ASSESSMENT QUIZ
1. Much can be told about us from whom we choose to idolize and look up to. Name one person you greatly respect and would like to emulate, and give three reasons why.
2. It’s when our lives are coming to an end that the things we value most become most important to us. If the doctor just informed you that you had only three months to live, name three things that you would do before you died.
3. The type of person we choose to spend our lives with says a great deal about who we are. Name the three most important qualities you looked for - or are looking for - in a spouse.
4. The things we wish for reflect our innermost desires and feelings, and really define our essence. If G-d would suddenly appear to you and grant you three wishes, what would they be?