There is a story about a great kabbalist named Rav Akiva who would meet his students every day to learn. On one occasion, however, one of his students didn’t show up, so later that evening, Rav Akiva went to the student’s house where he found the young man alone and very ill.
Rav Akiva cared for the student, giving him food and medicine and taking care of the house. Eventually, the young man recovered, but what saddened the great kabbalist the most was that none of his other students even noticed the one missing. “How is this possible,” Rav Akiva asked himself, “that with all these great sages, nobody saw the suffering of someone who studied with them every single day?”
This story contains a powerful lesson. The most important spiritual attribute we have is our humility, meaning our ability to open our eyes and see the people around us. This ability is what separates our true spiritual work from what might seem like spiritual work.
There are many of us who enjoy learning from a book, enjoy learning with other people, enjoy being a part of a religious or a spiritual establishment. But of all these people, how many of us are truly willing to do the work involved in stepping outside of ourselves to be there for others, especially when doing so is uncomfortable?
This week, let us remember that spirituality is not something that just happens to us—it’s something we create. It is like being in a pool and you push the water away, the amount of water you push away is the amount that comes back to you. It’s the same in the system of life. The effort and energy we expend in our lives and extend to the lives of those around us is the amount of energy that we will receive back.
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