Music and recording © Alexander Massey 2012
Pirkei Avot 1:14
אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי
וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי
וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתָי
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?
We give thanks every morning for the soul we are given by God, and for the purity of that soul. We go on to give thanks for our body, and for the opportunity to live another day. Implicit is the idea that our life and our body are our personal God-given responsibility and we must protect and nurture them. Beyond this sacred selfcare, we experience and express ourselves within a moral universe, which means also extending ourselves to and for others, and helping sustain the health and balance of the created world. Rabbi Ady Assabi (1947-2003) created a beautiful morning prayer that reminds us of our possibilities:
“May I make this new day a special day. May I overcome my weaknesses and radiate around me the light of love, care and joy. May my desire for success and attainment not blind me to the needs and wants of others, especially those I love and those who depend on me. May I be able to make during this day, some real time for myself and my family, and some meaningful space for You. Help me to remember throughout the day, that my time is like a scroll; I need only write on it what I want to remember, lest I run out of parchment.”
Sometimes, we must act swiftly; sometimes, we must pause to discern what action would be best. But neither abdication nor procrastination is a responsible option. In our best moments, perhaps we can hope that our choices will simultaneously and harmoniously serve ourselves, others, and the created world. And in so doing, we will serve God.