This weekend we went away to the Vaal for a Limmud weekend. It was a lovely weekend away, lovely weather, lovely inspiring talks by people I would not usually be exposed to. And I learnt so much!!!! The only downer is that Prince No. 3 was ill and that kind of killed the momentum of being a seeker of knowledge and experience. I became a harried, sleep deprived, eyes popping out with worry mum. (Back to reality!) I did manage to slip out to hear Rabbi Simon Jacobson’s talk on ‘Towards a Meaningful Life’. (Prince No. 3 was sleeping with a babysitter – thank God for babysitting facilities.) In the session my brain went PING PING PING with recognition and it’s something I’m going to share here because we all need it. Us, our children, the whole world needs this.

So what is it? It’s to have a mission. So simple and yet not so easy. We all know it but how many of us do it? As Jacobson said (and he’s such a nice guy you just want to call him Simon, which in itself says a lot about him) ‘How many of us wake up with a bounce, excited about the new day?’ I know my three year old does. But the rest of us….. I slept in just this morning, and that’s after a whole weekend of zizzing inspiration.

Here’s another question Jacobson posed – Do you matter? Are you indispensable? All of us nod our heads and say, ‘Yes of course.’ But do we live that way? Are we careful with everything we do and say because we know we count?

Lots of questions, but as he said, ‘The question of a wise person is half the answer.’

So in order to begin finding your mission in this world we need to begin at the beginning. Who are you?

When I’m asked this question I’m likely to answer ‘I don’t know I’m still figuring that one out.’ Which is at least honest and open. Jacobson says that a lot of us define ourselves by what we do. We are our business cards. (Shall we begin business cards for mothers? We could call ourselves, Future Builders, Child Insurance Brokers, Future Investors – any other ideas bring it on!) The point is that we need to generate our own identities. If our identity is based on external entities, be it parents, society, money, jobs – what happens when it all goes vamoosh into the ether? Do you also disappear?

What happens if you weren’t given any chances in life. If you were seriously abused as a child and had a miserable past – Who are you – are you your abuse? And this is where we turn back to basics, back to where we really come from, before we were even born. Which is part of God, the divine, a higher power than us. So we can go beyond circumstance. It is Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

The fact that we are born means that we matter. We don’t ask to be born but we are born (as Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cordoza pointed out in a different context). Why? Because God wanted us to be born. Because we matter, because we can make a difference. And this applies to all of us. Every single one of us. We are created in the image of God. And it occurred to me (whilst I was jumping on the trampoline today with my three year old) that just as we declare that God is one, that we too are one. There is only one of each of us. One thumb print unique to all of us.

I try and explain that to my Princes. I tell them, ‘You are my best, most favourite Prince No. 1, 2 and 3.‘ I want them to realise that each of them are so different and unique that in and of themselves they are my favourite. It’s taking time though. Maybe because they’re boys and highly competitive.

If each of us believed, ‘I am unique and special, a Divine Expression of life’, would we not act differently? Would we not explore our mission and impact more keenly?

It’s a divine service to connect to the fact that we’re all created in God’s image. Why else would it be at the beginning of the Torah? ‘God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’ (Genesis 1:27).

My question is, why do we know this but don’t feel it???? Because as I’m discovering more and more, knowing something doesn’t mean you feel it or do it. (It’s like the kabbalistic teachings of chachma – wisdom of the brain, Bina – wisdom of the heart and then the highest level Das – understanding. We need to get to that Das – understanding. This is the highest level of integrated knowing, which includes action.)

Back to Rabbi Simon Jacobson. He says that we need three axioms.

  1. Each of us has a mission
  2. Each of us is indispensable. We are defined by our divinity more than anything else.
  3. Each of us needs tools to find our mission.

So let’s focus on these tools.

One of my favourite descriptions that he gave in his talk was the following. Michelangelo said, ‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’ Michelangelo recognised that he was a channel for divinity. That’s what we all are. We are all like blocks of stone with an angel trapped inside. And so are our children. Our job is to set the angel free.

Jacobson said, ‘The mission of every soul is to refine and spiritualise a corner of their life.’

‘So if we are channels bringing energy into this world we need to figure out what that channel is going to be in our life. Use the gifts we were given. Do something not ‘you centered’ but ‘God centered’. IE. Not just to serve ourselves but to channel something greater than ourselves.’ (This is Jacobson speaking not me. Wish it was me…)

So here’s Jacobson’s formula for how to find your mission so that you can be the above in this world.

P ersonality

O ppurtunities

P eople

P laces

POPP!!!

I would add you need to ‘snap’ out of your limited paradigm of self, ‘crackle’ into your own connection and Popp!!! (okay I couldn’t resist that don’t shut down the computer.)

Personality – Ask yourself what’s your unique personality. We are all different. Some of us are emotionally astute, intuitive, logical, organised, cerebral etc. etc. etc. I am, for example, highly creative, love writing, philosophy, self help books ie. personal growth and love having fun (if that counts – I’m sure it does). I am not so good at organisation especially those small practical things that take time. I don’t like schedule (but boy do I need one and so I do try and stick to one) and I loath administration. Those are my weaknesses. The trick is to focus on the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses. (I am in real need of partners for some of my ideas who are highly practical! Anyone????)

Jacobson asks, ‘What do you understand about your personality?’ We can’t all know our whole selves so it’s worth running it by a friend who can help spot you.

‘Your unique personality is a signpost for what your mission is.’ It’s very sad when your best qualities are not being used. (Hence I need to hire someone to do all my admin – at the moment I have no toilet paper at home. No kidding. Yes I know Pick n’ Pay on line…)

Opportunities – What you are given in terms of opportunities is all part of fulfilling your mission. See what you’ve been able to do and I would suggest writing a time line of opportunities you have had and do have.

People – The people you know are an excellent resource for helping you in your mission. Look at who they are and see who you relate to.

Places – You’re in the place you are for a reason. Use wherever you are as part of your mission.

Jacobson says if you assess these four things in your life a picture will emerge as to why these four things are part of your life and what your mission may be.

Notably this is not an overnight process. It will take time, thought and searching, moreover doing! But it’s worth exploring. In fact Jacobson says we should have ‘mission’ classes in schools. And I agree with that. Instead of life orientation we should have ‘what is your mission?’ classes where the teachers help our children assess themselves and start chipping away at themselves so their inner angels, purpose can emerge, be encouraged and nurtured. So that they don’t spend their 20’s searching for it, if not their whole lives.

Just to end. Jacobson says, ‘The greatest challenge to a young person is boredom.’ Why? Because when you have a vacuum inside you, you end up filling it with unhealthy things. Drugs, food, TV, pills, depression, over exercising (I love knowing that over exercising is unhealthy), all our lovely, addictive behaviours.

So we need to find our individual missions and have that as our foundation. Jacobson began his talk with saying that without the foundation of knowing ourselves as individuals with a mission, how can we build solid lives?

It’s our work, and it’s the work to teach our children.

And I assure you ADHD behaviour would also diminish if we gave these kids a purpose. Their purpose. It’s our birth right after all as we are all created in the image of God.