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
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
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