Im en ani li mi li, uk’she’ani l’atzmi ma ani, v’im lo achshav emasai? I’m listening to the song right now. It seems a pretty popular verse, and what with the scores of songs using those precise lyrics. One might get the impression that this notion is somewhat thematic of Judaism. I first heard this proverb when I was very young and continue to be constantly bombarded by it through a variety of media. How hypocritical a world this is.

Ever heard the story behind a world changing movement or idea? Ever spoke to the person behind it? The stories are always classic variances on the archetypal underdog versus the-powers-that-be story. Person conceives of idea, person tries acting on that idea, person is doubted and scorned by the rest of the word, person perseveres and success in changing the world despite overwhelming adversity. Am I the only one who is so disturbed by this archetype given the aforementioned ubiquitous and oft-repeated proverb? You would think that after a whole the world would get the message.

The first question people ask me when I tell them that I work at our place or that I’m a member of a support group for survivors of sexual abuse is usually a shocked “why?!” And that always throws me off because it seems like such a ridiculous question. So I usually tell them that I feel that my causes are important to me, that I believe very strongly in them, and that if no one else is going to do anything about them then I will. “But why does it have to be you?” Well, because who else if not me? Are you going to do it?

I understand Im en ani li mi li to mean that a person has an obligation to examine himself, his soul, and his connection to God and others, find his place in all of it, and use his God-given abilities, understanding, and talents to help others. Each person is given a unique set of abilities and understanding that they must realize in themselves (Im en ani li mi li), they must then understand how those abilities define their purpose and enable them to improve their world (Uk’she’ani l’atzmi ma ani), and not allow themselves to be pressured not to act or fall prey to comfort or complacency (V’im lo achshav emasai).

Why do I do what I do? Why don’t you.

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