The great thing about the world of the spirit is that gravity doesn’t apply. Inertia can be overcome. Our secular culture teaches us to focus on ourselves when we have problems – whether through healthful things like self-help books and therapy, or through numbing things like comfort food, self-medication and complaining to friends.
A teacher once shared with me a special tool for lifting oneself out of sadness and depression. It is a very Jewish way to lift yourself up, and it isn’t something you might expect to hear from a rabbi.
He said to turn your focus away from yourself and on someone else. Lifting up another person through meaningful, regular volunteer work is a remarkable tikkun and a way to heal the world. It also has the wonderful side effect of healing your own scars. When you feed someone who is hungry, visit someone who is ill, or help a child who badly needs a mentor or tutor, you not only bring healing to our world, but you also create a miraculous new sense of self-worth. Through lifting up others, we lift up ourselves.
Throughout the Torah, our ancestors put others first, despite their own difficulties and times of confusion and grief.
May we be like them, moving through our struggles this year by committing to help others. Shanah tova u’metukah.
Sarah Lefton is a creative innovator and the founder of Jewish Fashion Conspiracy and G-dcast.com, a lighthearted cartoon series for teens. www.lefton.net