Here is a thought I have been wrestling with… the world needs the Sages back… or to be more precise, the world needs US to be Sages. Now more than ever, we need to pursue wisdom and truth. The truth is all we have, the truth will set us free, the truth will define who we are, especially in how we pursue it. If we ignore the truth that is in front of us, then what are we?While Regan is often attributed to saying: “If not us, who? If not now, when?” It is actually Hillel the Elder who uttered the phrase:
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
Three sentences and a lifetime of meaning. Utterly profound. The truth is so simple, and yet comprehending it can be so deep. If I understand this, even on a basic level, it means that I must be who I am, live truthfully and honestly and vouch for myself, stand up for myself, love myself. If I do not, how can I expect anyone else to.
If I am only for myself, selfish and self-centered, then I am not living a fulfilled life, a truthful life and therefore I am not myself… Therefore I am nothing.
And of course the last sentence… the carpe diem… the no day but today. If I keep putting off the truth and my pursuit of it… if I deny myself today… right now, then when? It is too easy to push these things off to tomorrow… and yet, tomorrow may never come. Act NOW! Once the truth is in our possession, in our hands, we need to open those hands and share it… we need to lift it to the sky, for all to see.Last week we celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., and I was reminded of some amazing things he said. And clearly there are some clear and powerful lines to be drawn from Torah and the Sages to MLK and many others.
Three quotes in particular hit me…
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
We need to study and be willing to listen in order to become wise, educated and informed. Because and beyond anything else, we need to seek the truth. This must be an eternal activity, from the moment we are born, literally, to the moment we are born (or reborn) every single morning. We are all so entrenched these days, that we either ignore the truth or simply cannot see it. The truth cannot be changed. It is there, hopefully for all to see and discover. But in today’s world, and now more than ever we need the Sages and the great Sandherin. We need civilized debate that is not intended to give power or to make one side right over the other, but to find the truth… to elucidate the truth.
Our Sages and people like King spoke of this need to learn and become aware… the pivotal need to locate and define truth, yes… but then to speak it… to transmit it… to never deny it, though sometimes it is more convenient to do that… but to always… ALWAYS share it.
We cannot be silent, and we cannot accept the silence of others. This is not what we were taught. This is not who we are.
And so it seems that rather than waiting for the Sages and the Sandherin to return, we must take the reins ourselves. Let us debate, yes, but with respect and knowledge and the common goal of pursuing, getting to and discovering the truth. Let us stand on the mountain top… or street corner… and speak that truth. The truth is here, the time is now… not when… but now.
We all can be sages… just by speaking the truth.