January 28th, 2008


Things to think about

Judaism is about doing, not believing. Is belief in God even necessary if a person does righteous things? If its not for the purpose of getting to heaven, and it's only for good things on this earth, and I DO want people to know that I work hard to help others...

So what if I cook for the homeless shelter and then tell people about it? So what if I'm Youth Director because it's fun for me? So what if INSIDE I'm a huge mess? I still do things that I can do to help people, even if it is for the purpose of making me feel better, even if I enjoy the personal recognition.

How I'm perceived to others is a big thing, to me. I remember chatting a friend online (maybe during my freshman year of college), and adjusting my webcam so that I looked pretty, and his was in the background somewhere. Do I care about how I am perceived more than I care about other people? Do I purposely try to manipulate friends and possible future romances into believing that I am what they want me to be? Is everything I do a whole subconscious show of how I want to be perceived? Does it "matter"?

One thing that makes me think that I still might be a "good" person on the inside is how I vote, even though perhaps saying this voids the issue. I vote for who will be the best person to do a job. Obviously, who I *think* is the best person, but probably not who is the best person for ME. Surely this homestead tax exemption could help me out, but I'd prefer the schools to have help. Maybe the Republicans even have my best interests in mind, as a self-sufficient, non-welfare needing person, but I still vote for who I think is best, [and not generally a Republican] because I believe they will do a better job for the country. (please, for those with political views that differ from my own, do not turn this into a debate, thanks)

The highest form of mitzvah is when you do something for someone and they don't know where it comes from, and you don't know where it goes to. Now, with USY we do that-- We have made sandwiches, cookies, etc and dropped them off at the shelter, not wanting recognition. We don't know who exactly it will go to, and they don't know who gave it to them.

But what if I only did it so that others in USY, or those at my synagogue, or you reading my journal now, will know that I did it? Does that mean it's less worthy or that I am a worse person for receiving recognition? And if I did it for the sole sake of being recognized for it, does that feed the homeless any less?

And what if I spent a year in Americorps so I could say that I did it? What if I did it for two purposes-- one, to feel good about myself, and two, so I could say "look at me, I'm in Americorps, that means I'm a good person, now think better of me, PEON!.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm volunteering this weekend at Regional Latin Forum because it's a heck of a lot of fun for me. That doesn't mean that the students in the Junior Classical League will benefit any less. They still need chaperons to score tests, to evaluate performances, to moderate Certamen. And heck yeah I'm up for it, its one of my favorite days of the year. Does that mean, though, that I'm any less of a good person, because I enjoy it myself?

Phoebe Buffay admits that there's no un-selfish good deed. We do things that make ourselves feel good, no matter what. Is that good enough? The "Awesome" Kabbalah guy says that true happiness and wonderfulness with God comes when we stop doing deeds to help ourselves, and begin to do good deeds for the sole purpose of helping others. I'm not sure that I've met anyone who has ever achieved this, nor do I believe it's important.

I do good deeds to feel good about myself. That's not a secret (or if it was, I'm outed). I speak about them and others know what I have done. Perhaps it inspires them to be better people, and the amount of good increases exponentially. Or perhaps they just scoff and say, "she did it for the recognition." That's fine, too. Believe what you will. I'll just continue to be the best person that I can be. Perhaps by making over the land, I can make over my soul-- in other words, change the outside first. Perhaps by changing the outcome, I can change myself.

Inspired by Rob