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Rabbi Daniel Freitag

I was shopping for a fence the other day. It seems that my neighbors all believe that the natural state for large dogs is that they roam free, free to chase toddlers, free to chew up garbage, and free to fertilize your lawn at no cost. But that's a topic for another time.

Anyway, in the fence catalog there were all sorts of fences including the standard of the "American Dream", the white picket fence. You know the picture, two kids (or one, certainly not more), a dog (without a leash, grrrr), and mom and pop all washed and brushed standing proud in front of the white picket fence. Ok, what is the deeper meaning of this dream? What is the final goal? Well, I suppose it is to be financially secure, with a small, non-threatening family.

Let me ask you something. Imagine that you were 35 years old, and you had enough money to retire and live the "American Dream". Ok, so you quit work, you buy the house with the fence. Ok, now what? Do you visit Paris? (How thrilling, rude waiters and a big erector set gone haywire), do you go mountain climbing? No matter what you do, you will eventually hit a certain wall. One day you are going to sit down and ask yourself, "Who am I?," "What have I accomplished?"

You see, there is a big difference between the American dream and the Jewish reality. The American dream is about what you own, and where you live, the Jewish reality is about who you are. Just owning a fence and a dog will not make someone happy. A person needs fulfillment and purpose. There is an interesting phenomena which demonstrates this. People who fought in the army for a long time in a war which they felt was just and necessary, find it very hard to readjust to civilian life. Imagine going from a time when everything you do is an act which is potentially saving the world, to a life where your biggest decision is which brand of diaper cream to buy. It is a shattering transition. The greatest life is a life full of purpose and meaning.

Did you ever notice that all of the movie stars and celebrities are affiliated with causes? This one wants to save the whales, this one wants to free Tibet, etc. Why is this? Why don't they all just sit back and enjoy their millions? The reason is the same. Every person needs a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. Acting like someone else for a camera is not very fulfilling.

This important point is the primary reason why there is no "Jewish Dream." Dreams are for the uninspired. It's the reality which we strive for.



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