In 2013, there were an estimated 7.125 billion people in the world. That is 7,125,000,000 people…that’s a lot of zeros.
Keeping this figure in mind, it is sometimes hard to think of myself as important to anyone other than my family, and it is difficult to think that I could possibly be unique when there more than 7 billion other people out there. There is absolutely nothing that I can say that I do better than 7 billion people. Even when I think about what I perceive to be my talents, I am humbled by thinking of myself in comparison. I may have advanced degrees, but I am not smarter than 7 billion other people. I may type quickly, but I am certainly not going to win any awards out there. And my kids may love my cookies, but I certainly cannot out-bake 7 billion other people.
So, really, what is my purpose? Why distinguishes me from all of the other people out there? In what way could I possibly be special?
Pirkei Avot addressed these questions and tells us, “There is no one who does not have his hour, and there is nothing that does not have its place.” According to this statement, we each have a role to fill, and there is a purpose, as hard as it may be to believe, for each of the over 7 billion people.
Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman continues this train of thought adding, “It is taught throughout Jewish tradition that each person has a unique soul and a unique mission in the world. No one can complete another’s task for him or her. We all have our special contribution to make, our own instrument to play in the cosmic symphony.” Rabbi Trugman tells us that not only do we each have a unique role to fill, but we cannot fill the role of another; unlike in baseball, there are no pinch-hitters in life.
But how can that be? How can I really have a role that is unique to me that no one else can fill? Statistically that seems unlikely.
Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen answer by saying “Just as one must believe in God, so must he believe in himself.” Instead of questioning, then, how we are each different and how we can contribute, Rabbi HaKohen advises us to believe in ourselves in the same way that we believe in God. He advises us to take a leap of faith and trust that we are here for a reason and have a role. If God created so many different people, there clearly must be a reason.
So this holiday season and heading into the new year, I encourage each of us to think about our place, consider our own individual tasks, and believe in ourselves enough to make it happen. You are, after all, one in 7.125 billion!