Questions are so much more powerful than answers, aren't they?
But, what if instead, I headlined this with "The reason you are here".
You might not believe that the answer to this unbelievably complex question could possibly be given in this space.
How can a blog post...or even anything of greater length, offer a reasonable answer, especially if there is no dialogue taking place?
Doesn't the answer depend on your own traits, your view of the world...ultimately your own individuality?
In our culture, individuality is overrated. We live in complicated times in which so many issues of great consequence are whittled down to one's own self-interest. For one, there is an over obsession with our outward appearance. It might have started with the penchant for "selfies" which comically captures this concept, but the reality goes far deeper. Decades ago, the classic book "Bowling Alone" (Putnam, 1995) spoke about the decline in social capital.
In addition, the explosion of social media has created a ripe venue in which we can promote ourselves (either posts of joy or unfortunately even loss) for others to respond to. Both Instagram and Facebook are built upon this notion and reinforce it with every scroll and click.
Societal breakdown is the result of these and so many other factors ---- and it seems to have gotten worse. We have lost our capacity to think beyond ourselves and our own self-interest.
What do we need to learn that we haven't yet?
How will things begin to change?
The Zohar, (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, 2nd and 3rd century CE) part of the literature of Jewish mystical thought, sees things from a totally opposite perspective. An updated commentary (Laitman, 2007) gives us this stunning frame of reference (updated translation my own):
After being born in our world, you are obliged to change your heart from egoistic to altruistic, while living in this world.
This is the purpose of your life, the reason behind your appearance in this world, and it is the goal of all creation.
So, our work is the opposite of what is trending. Talk about Judaism being counter-cultural...this will not be easy. The shedding of ego is not just a nice idea, and it absolutely does not mean a loss of our individuality. On the contrary, we are to use our unique gifts in service of the whole, not just for our own glorification. This takes work and focus on a daily basis.
We understand the concept of being egotistical, and sometimes think that it applies to others, but not ourselves. When we see someone taking up too much space in a room, or vying for attention, the word egotistical comes to mind. But that's not the spiritual concept of the word.
In order for you to give up your ego, you need to recognize that you are answerable to something, some entity, greater than yourself. That is where the lack of ego comes from. What you do must be for the sake of some greater purpose.
The Torah contains an exorbitant amount of information for constructing a good and benevolent society, but it means nothing unless we are consciously acting in ethical ways.
Living through Torah means that our consciousness is raised with every decision, everything that comes out of our mouths, every action we take.
Thought. Intention. Behavior.
Not so simple...but now we have what to strive for.