Making Sense of the Sedra: Devarim
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ORTHODOX JUDAISM

Making Sense of the Sedra: Devarim

Ryan Trahan
Ryan Trahan

Do you feel elated when your football team wins a game? Or perhaps you prefer to follow someone like YouTuber Ryan Trahan, who managed to cross America with one penny?

When watching celebrities and influencers, we feel the excitement of their achievements and the disappointment when they fail. I recently listened to a podcast by Charlie Harary, an inspirational American speaker, who described what happens to us when we follow other people’s lives.

Deep down, everyone aspires to greatness. We want to make a difference in some way and want to feel the thrill of achievement. The problem is that to achieve greatness, we must work hard and get our feet mucky. It takes time and effort, and the results are not immediate. When we immerse ourselves in the virtual world, through social media, watching our favourite teams, or following the lives of celebrities, we have a feeling of greatness, without the work. We feel the dopamine effect of success, but the success is not our own. These micro-immersions (as he calls them) of moments scrolling down the screen fulfil this need for greatness, but the effect wears off moments later.

We all need some down time, and watching a game of football, or enjoying a YouTube video about Ryan’s current escapades, can be a welcome break when we need to unwind. The question we need to ask ourselves is how much time of our own lives is taken up by watching someone else’s life?

True greatness cannot be achieved through living vicariously. There is no replacement for overcoming our own inertia and filling our time with meaningful endeavours that enhance the lives of others.

In the book of Devarim, which we start this week, Moshe talks to the people at the end of his life. His advice to them is simple and direct. “Choose Life!” (Deuteronomy 30:15). Throughout his last speech, he reminds them of all their experiences, the good and the bad. We will make mistakes; we will rise and fall, and life will sometimes be messy.

Today, we have different pitfalls to the generation of the wilderness. While they struggled with not complaining to Hashem, we struggle with many distractions, which prevents us from remaining faithful to our purpose as a people and as individuals.

All those micro-immersions into someone else’s life diminish our energy and input into our own life’s mission. Our own potential for greatness fades as we enjoy riding the waves of another person’s highs and lows.

Becoming great may seem unreachable, but each one of us is born with tremendous potential. If we use our time wisely, we can reach incredible heights and feel the genuine joy and pleasure of our own achievements.

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