DIVREI TORAH

Does Anyone Need Me?

Do we feel needed?

When we packed school lunches for our children, we felt needed.

But our children are grown now - so they don’t need our lunches. And not being needed that way is disquieting.

Those feelings are even more disquieting for those who never packed children’s lunches because they never had children.

When we built our worlds with our spouses, we felt needed.

But our worlds are built - so we don’t need to build. And not being needed that way is disquieting.

Those feelings are even more disquieting for those who didn’t build joint worlds because they didn’t have spouses.

Yes, sometimes we feel unneeded because we aren’t addressing our loved one’s needs.

And sometimes we feel unneeded because we feel unloved.

When we feel unneeded – for whatever reason - we’re pained. It’s a pain that we’ve all seen, one that is best explained by psychologist Abraham Maslow, in his 1943 work, “The Hierarchy of Needs.”

That book explains the hierarchy of human needs. That hierarchy’s first level – humans’ most basic needs – are those that address basic survival. That includes oxygen, food, drink, and basic shelter. The hierarchy’s second level involves “safety and security” - police, health and the other communal services that let society function.

The next three levels, though, are all about emotional and spiritual needs.

The third level is “love and belongingness.” That’s our need for intimacy, trust and for receiving and giving love.

The fourth level is “esteem.” That includes the inner peace that we achieve when we know that we’re accomplishing. That also includes the respect that other people afford those who are accomplishing.

The fifth level is “self-actualization.” That happens when we feel that we’re accomplishing as much as we can be accomplishing.

The hierarchy’s first two levels are the physiological and social needs that allow for basic survival.

But the hierarchy’s next three levels are all about emotional and spiritual needs. They’re about connecting, being needed and accomplishing.

The needs for “love and belongingness,” “esteem” and “self-actualization” must, then, be addressed.

How, though, are those needs addressed?

How do we implant such feelings in our hearts when they don’t exist?

This question’s answer lies in the following possuk: “And they should take for me a donation.”

This possuk is commanding people to donate to the Mishkan. Such donations involve “giving” something to the Mishkan. This possuk, though, doesn’t tell us to “give” but, rather, to “take” from the Mishkan - “take for me a donation.”

Why are we being told to “take” when we’re meant to give?

Perhaps because when we give we also take. We take feelings of connectedness, meaning and purpose. We take the satisfaction of knowing that we’re part of a greater enterprise. We take “love, belongingness, esteem and self-actualization.”

It’s the enigmatic Rashi on the following possuk: “a person’s gift will enrich him”[1] that notes that this enrichment occurs him both “in the next world and in this world.”[2]

Rashi statement that our giving enriches us in the next world is easily understood. Hashem, of course, rewards us for our good deeds in the next world. But why does Rashi say that that our giving also rewards us in this world? Hashem doesn’t necessarily reward us for our good in this world. We see how many righteous people - who do so much good - suffer so much in this world!

This guaranteed this-worldly enrichment can’t, then, be rewards that Hashem gives us.

It can, though, be rewards that we give ourselves.

Those would be the rewards of “love, belongingness, esteem and self-actualization.” Those feelings, which are created by giving to others, enrich us by addressing our needs.

Rashi’s statement about a this-worldly enrichment is supported by an eye-opening 2017 study[3] on charitable giving. That study documents giving additional charity increases peoples’ life satisfaction. That study also documents that the life-satisfaction increases caused by additional charity far exceeds the life-satisfaction increases that are caused by additional income.

This study was conducted by a non-Jewish university. So it’s not a study about mitzvos. It’s, rather, a study about the human need to connect to others, to give and to feel necessary.

Yes, we must give to others. And we must connect with others. And if our old forms of giving – packing school lunches, for example – aren’t relevant, then we must find new ways of giving.

Grandparents can help stretched children with their carpools.

Empty-nesters can host guests at their now quiet Shabbos tables.

All of us can volunteer at community programs, reach out to the lonely and help our shuls, our schools and our communities.

Sure, those activities have us giving time, effort, and money to others.

Those activities, though, have us getting feelings of “love, belongingness, esteem and self-actualization.”

And that means that we will get far more than we give.

[1]

[2] Rashi ad. loc.

[3] Indiana Nonprofits Survey, Indiana University

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