It was Friday, roughly five thirty in the morning, and I was in the airport terminal at Bradley International Airport. This was my chance to daven before my flight boarded and a few hundred raised eyes were not about to stop me. I found a place away from everyone else and began donning my tallis and tefillin. This would have made for a great shot, standing alone in the airport with my tallis and tefillin and all these other people in the background.
Although I was admittedly rushed because I was afraid of missing my flight, it was a most special davening for me. I felt so fortunate and proud to be a Jew. Here I was, performing a few mitzvos that all those around me had no connection to. I have a life filled with meaning and purpose, while their lives are filled with emptiness and, um, selfies.
Much has been written about selfies. The commentary usually revolves around the topic of selfishness and self-centeredness, which indeed are issues, but I was thinking of something perhaps even more significant. When one is constantly looking to take a picture of oneself with the most unusual or brave backdrop, he is seeking the admiration of others. His life is no longer about what is best and right for him. It is now about the attention and approval of others.
We need to live our lives for ourselves. It is our own approval that we need most. Is this the right thing to do? Is this what Hashem wants from me? These are the type of questions that we need to answer with confidence.
When we live our lives constantly looking for the attention and approval of others, we build shallow layers of self worth over an empty sense of self. Everyone admires us, we feel, but do we admire ourselves? Are we only comfortable with our lifestyle because those around us approve? Do we actually believe in our choices?
Standing alone in the airport in my tallis and tefillin gave me a great sense of pride in what I am living for. Yes, those around me may think I am strange, but I don’t care. I am proud and happy to daven to Hashem. This is the way I hope I can live my life even when surrounded by my brothers and sisters. It is not about their approval or respect; it is about my relationship with Hashem.
Indeed, we need to start taking more selfies, not the ones that appear on the screens of our smartphones or cameras, but in the recesses of our minds. Our experiences in this world are so precious. We must capture the moments and elevate them towards our relationship with Hashem. We can accomplish so much if only we don’t become distracted by the vanity and foolishness around us. Let us live for ourselves and achieve the greatness destined for us.
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Rabbi Kestenbaum offers private chinuch counseling, guiding parents and children towards stronger relationships. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbi Kestenbaum’s most recent book, “The Heart of Parenting,” published by Targum Press, is available at all Judaica stores. He is the author of the seforim “Olam Hamiddos,” “Olam Ha’avodah” and “Run After the Right Kavod.”
Chinuch shiurim and past articles our available at heartofparenting.com