Our Sages discuss two aspects of a person’s life mission. The first aspect focuses on maximizing the unique positive attributes, strengths, talents, and gifts that one possesses and how we are supposed to use them to build something special in this world. About this the great Chassidic master Rav Tzadok HaKoen of Lublin said “Every Jew is uniquely qualified in one aspect, superior in that respect to any other person. In that one matter, he is like a king over the Jewish People.”
The second aspect of one’s life’s mission focuses on dealing with the negative aspects of a person’s life including one’s weaknesses, flaws, struggles and difficult ordeals. The focus here is how to bring a reparation and rectification to this area of one’s life. To, once again, quote the great Rav Tzadok “The areas where a person struggles most are the areas where he is destined for greatness if he chooses to put in the effort.”
To get to the core of one’s purpose in this world, one needs to spend time examining these two parts of his or her life, with the realization that here lies the secret to why we were put on this world.
Let us begin our discussion by exploring the first aspect, maximizing your strengths and discovering your “kingdom”.
Jewish tradition teaches that every Jewish soul was present when God gave us the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Every single Jew received the exact same Torah with the same 248 positive commandments and the same 365 negative commandments that focus on every aspect of our lives. And though we all possess the identical Torah, there are no two Jews out there who can serve God the exact same way.
It is our individuality and uniqueness as well as our unique life circumstances that will inevitably shape which commandments we are able to more frequently perform, how we perform each commandment, and which Mizvot we connect to most deeply.
It is clear that some people are given more ability than others to give more charity, or live in Israel, or study more Torah. A social person might be presented with more opportunities to bring joy to others, while someone in the medical profession will likely have more opportunities to save lives or visit the sick, and someone with elderly parents might have more opportunities to fulfill the commandment to honor parents.
We also see that different types of personalities will connect to different parts of the Torah and find different Mitzvos near and dear to them. People who naturally connect with others might be more drawn to the parts of the Torah that focus on social justice and acts of kindness. A very spiritually-inclined person might connect deeply to prayer and meditation. An intellectual might be fascinated by Torah study. And a food lover might just love Shabbat and the holidays because of all the delicious food.
With this in mind we can take that first step to clarifying our unique mission in this world. This requires looking at one’s own life circumstances, talents, and, of course, one’s passions and asking which Mitzvot in the Torah are can we connect to most.
Since my childhood, I have always loved music and loved to sing. As a young child, I sang in various choirs. As a young adult, I taught myself piano, guitar and drums and would spend hours in a home recording studio that I created for myself. As an adult, I discovered that I could use my passion for music to connect to prayers in a very deep way. May of the prayers that meant nothing to me all my life, became beautiful pieces of music. The melodies highlighted different lines in the prayer drawing my attention to a deeper understanding of words that I had never before properly understood.
Musicians and artists have successfully communicated Jewish teachings and values in ways that no Rabbi standing at a podium possibly could have. Chefs and bakers have continued to enrich our Jewish culture of food and enhance the Kosher dining experience as well as Shabbat and holidays. Entrepreneurs have used their business saavy to create innovations in the Jewish world that have enhanced performance of Mitzvos. And those with a knack for building and carpentry have used their talents to beautify Synagogues and Torah study halls, and to bring a Jewish feel in to their homes.
When we identify what unique tools we have in our toolbox and how this can be used to enhance our performance of a specific Mitzvah, that Mitzvah performed in that way becomes a realization of our mission in this world, it becomes our kingdom. This is, in fact, what we pray for daily when we say give us our portion in your Torah.
This is not to say that once we have found our Mitzvah, we could neglect performance of the other Mitzvos. It is the complete structure of all of the Mitzvot together that helps us grow and reach greatness in all areas of life. But, our personal Mitzvah becomes our crown jewel.
One can compare it to building a house. When you sit down to map out how your house is going to look and feel, you are going to want it to be uniquely you. You are going to design it to accommodate your needs, to realize your dreams and to express yourself through it. You will adapt it to the styles and colors that speak to you most and, of course, add in some of your own original flare.
But as creative and crazy as you want to be, you know that there are certain universal rules, structures, and functions that you will have to submit to, otherwise your house won’t be functional. A strong foundation, support beams, electrical wires, pipes for plumbing, are all necessary components to building your house, whether they “speak to you or not”.
Your mission is like building a house. The entirety of Jewish living creates the foundation and the structure that needs to be in place. But once you have got that going, the next step is to make it uniquely yours by expressing your individuality, your colors, style and flare!