Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 

Owning vs. Owing

What does "created for me" really mean?


"Penina"

As I was standing in line with my family at the pizza shop, some person walked in with an air of self-importance. He proceeded to cut in front of the entire line. "That guy acts like he owns the place," somebody remarked. As I heard this, I looked behind the counter and saw the man who actually did own the place. He was working hard and sweating with all the workers, trying to keep up with the long line of customers. This scene made me wonder who was actually acting like an owner.

Speaking of ownership, when it comes to the world, the Talmud encourages each person to have an attitude of owning the place. We should each say to ourselves "The world was created for me - it's my place." It is a feeling of being the owner and the boss. Everything else is there to help me run the place correctly. Why would the Talmud advocate individuals to have such an egocentric self-image? What gives me the right to think I am the 'main man'?

The answer lies in an understanding of what it actually means to be the 'main man'. According to some, having power gives you the right to act however you please. Nobody else deserves any respect or help because they are inferior and not even worth the time of day. The guy in the pizza shop 'acting like he owned the place' had no regard for anybody else in the room. Chances are that if he acted like that and actually did own a restaurant, it would not be doing too well.

Judaism understands ownership and control differently. Beginning with the mindset of "the world was created for me" it follows the logic that this means that everything else is there to serve the one person (the "me"), and to help that person complete his or her task. However, if everything else is there to help that one person, than that person has a tremendous responsibility. He or she must take care of everything that is around. Since it is there to serve them, their personal success or failure is intertwined with its success or failure. Therefore, it is in everybody's best interest (especially the owner's) for the owner to treat everything with respect. The real owner of the pizza shop understood that if he wanted his business to succeed, he had to sweat it out and cook pizza.

Power, control and responsibility - they can not be separated. Ironically, caring about ourselves logically obligates us to care about others. This is part of what it means when it says that all Jews are connected. Our roles are deeply interconnected. But it is not just with all Jews, and not just with all people - our fate is intertwined with everything that exists in the world. Taking care of animals and the environment will also help us in completing our own tasks.

In an ideal world, each person would have a sense of pride, ownership, and responsibility for the world. While it might sound contradictory for many people to be able to live lives of "the world was created for me" simultaneously, the truth is that many people embracing this attitude create a harmony. At that point, the world is enhanced precisely because everybody is looking out for each other. So we see that rather than adopting an attitude of self-importance, having power or control means accountability; it is an obligation to extend out. We are all encouraged to take on the title 'owner of the world'; but to succeed in the business, we have to let the customers have the first pizza.

penina@torah.org - Keep in touch!

 






ARTICLES ON DEVARIM AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

Mourning on the 9th of Av: The Reasons
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757

The Nine Days of Mourning
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Striving to Succeed
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5761

> The Eye Generation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5763

Body Language
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5770

No Empty Matter
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Faithful Contentment
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff - 5774

So Much to Say
Shlomo Katz - 5761

Paradise Lost
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5759

ArtScroll

The Shepherd Sticks with His Flock
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761

The Foundation of Piety
Shlomo Katz - 5773

Fix the World
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The World Within
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5769

By The Rivers of Babylon...
Shlomo Katz - 5759

Taking Stock
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5757

The Secret to Rebuke
Shlomo Katz - 5772



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information