July 25, 2005

The Open Hand

What are our obligations to other people? How far must we extend ourselves on another's behalf? At what point have we given enough of ourselves to the world at large to say; my giving quota is filled for the day/week/month/year?

Financially, according to Jewish law, charity stops at about 10% of one's income, if one is not wealthy, 20% if one is wealthy. This is the money owed to charity. There isn't, to the best of my knowledge, any set criterion as to where that charity goes to; but 10 or 20% minimum is it. (One is also not to impoverish oneself to help another.)

But there are many other ways are giving and, again, to the best of my knowledge, there is no minimun, or maximum for that matter. Reading a letter to an elderly grandmother, helping a friend solve a problem, directing a visitor to the museum they want to see. The only limit to this kind of giving that I can see is the wear an tear on the person emotionally, and the need to balance the giving
away from home with the giving within.

I don't know that I have ever struck the right balance. I never feel as if I'm doing it right anywhere. I go from wanting to do more to wanting to crawl into a deep dark tunnel where no one but the wind can find me.

The world is such an overwhelming place sometimes I can't seem to find a breathing place. There is so much wrong with the world, so many needs that must be atteneded too, that I always feel guilty for not having done more, and at
the same time feel bereft of me time.

What has one given enough? How can one ever decide? The world is like a hungry bird, always needing to be fed by someone. How does a person decide his/her turn is up?

Posted by Rachel Ann at July 25, 2005 04:27 PM | TrackBack

I wish I had an answer. You sound like you're very overwhelmed and bordering on depression...or maybe I'm simply projecting. ;) You do what you can. If you're not in the mood, you're allowed to think of yourself and take care of you. ARE you taking care of you? Can you do something each day to pamper yourself? Can be lighting a scented candle while you're at the computer... it can be a bath with some bathbeads... read a book.... anything. You need to be able to recharge your batteries or you won't be any good to anyone. Hang in there!!!

Posted by: esther at July 26, 2005 02:29 AM

Shalom Rachel Ann ~

I used to have a perfectionist, must-save-the-world mentality. When I was younger I could afford the near-burnout it caused. But now I choose my battles, and do so *guilt free*. I finally realized that all belongs to HaShem, and He orders it. We are merely 'assistants.' Do not forget that our fellow human beings have their share to do, as well, so it is not always our responsibility to repair the world.

My course of action is to pray and thoroughly consider a matter. For decisions needed quickly, this also involves cultivating our relationship with HaShem so at the right time we can respond to matters quickly if needed, but appropriately.

Coming to these understandings, the result has been that now I rarely, if ever, feel that I have not done enough, as far as my part is concerned. If I have fallen short, HaShem does give me a nudge here and there, but that is different than feeling guilty.

My suggestion is that you pray to know and act on the difference between guilt and inspiration. Try to not act on "guilt," because that is like running on negative energy, and may even be counter-productive. But inspiration is positive and you complete the task knowing it is... enough... because it is what HaShem had for you to do, and He will add onto it.

The lesson here: never heap guilt on yourself for doing only your part. Why, that is the only role you can play. :)

Posted by: Chana Meira at July 31, 2005 09:29 PM
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