In this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Miriam dies, and immediately the well that had supplied the Jewish people with water for 40 years ceased to flow. It is from here that we learn that the Jewish people had this well on Miriam’s merit — millions of people depended on her for 40 years.
The people who have truly lucked out on life are the people who are needed by people.
I often ask couples who come in for counseling if they could ever leave their children. “Of course not,” comes the stern reply. “They need me so much!” Five minutes later, that same parent will exclaim, “It’s not my kids who are the problem, it’s my husband, he is so needy!” The very thing that is endearing in one’s child is a cause for all kinds of marital discord.
First, being needed is the ultimate expression of self-fulfillment. A human being enters this world with nothing to offer, and their goal on this good earth is to leave it being needed. What a tragedy it would be if we died and no one noticed.
Second, our sense of self-worth is directly related to how needed we are. A student of mine told me of her father who fed the poor of his town. Single-handedly, he ensured that his entire small village had no one who went to sleep hungry. When he died, the whole town closed down.
Third, we need to recognize our own internal dichotomy. On the one hand, we want to be called upon to fulfill some eternal destiny, and on the other we want to be left alone and not bothered.
You just can’t have both.
The more we perfect ourselves and offer to the world our unique characteristics for which we have been placed on this planet, then the more people will call on us to share it with them. Because of this, the novelty will soon give way to a feeling of annoyance. “Can’t these people just leave me alone?”
And they can’t. Because no one can do what you can do.
If we think about it, we will realize that our children need us for things that are not unique to us. Their needs are generically the same regardless of who their parents are and, therefore, their demands are not as draining. Not so for a spouse. We marry each other for qualities we don’t have and, therefore, our need for them is unique to them. Similarly, their need for us is unique to us.
At some point in your life you are going to have to decide between being needed or being left alone. You can’t feel a real sense of meaning or purpose unless you are surrounded by people who need you. Alternatively, if the people around you don’t need you, you will feel immense unimportance.
As I explained to a very wealthy person who was complaining that people needed him so much, it could be much worse. “How could it be worse?” he asked.
“You could have nothing that people need,” I responded.
If the people around you need you, then you are where you ought to be. And if the people around you don’t need you, then find some people who do.
Originally from London, Rabbi Stephen Baars resides in Rockville, Maryland, and serves as executive director of Aish Seminars. An educator and marriage counselor for the past 25 years, Rabbi Baars and his wife, Ruth, are blessed with seven children. Learn more about Rabbi Baars at www.getbliss.com and www.core9.live.