Do we need to be identical to be considered equal?

The one thing that democracy never meant to imply by its credo that “all men are created equal” is that we are identical — identical in the task we were assigned by the Almighty to help to perfect this world nor identical in the talents, skill and intellect we bring to our distinct and different roles.

Democracy acknowledges that every one of us is created in the image of God. Democracy demands equal rights and equal protection before the law. Democracy insists that neither race, nor color, nor any other manifestation of difference deprives us of God’s love and concern.

But do we really believe that a person who is brighter, more talented, more capable, potentially more gifted in certain areas of their abilities, smacks of racism and attacks the fundamental core value of our democracy that “all men are created equal.”

It is not racist to encourage and assist those with the great potential to maximize their specific abilities. Encouraging effort, achievement and progress should be viewed as ideals, not as societal “dividers” to be shunned as signals of inequality.

It’s a tragedy to deny the reality of human difference. This denial of meritocracy misconstrues the equality of human dignity. Striving for excellence — each one of us in accord with personal God-given abilities and talents — is what gives us the right to be equally worthy in the sight of the Almighty.

The use of one’s freedom of choice leads to success

Yes, the path to success is usually fraught with challenges and obstacles. We need to believe that we can achieve it. Personal accomplishments are not only dependent on a person’s knowledge and skills, but also on the belief that the person can use his or her abilities effectively.

For many reasons, people sometimes internalize negative beliefs about themselves that are not grounded in reality. Even gifted competent and accomplished people can fail to see themselves for who they really are and believe that they are the opposite. They have a skewed self-perception, a distorted sense of self. The mindset that underlies success, develops from core beliefs we have about ourselves.

What is the Torah’s description of a human being? Human beings are ‘created in G-d’s image.’ This is a powerful and enduring metaphor that has animated intellectual thought for millennia. The popular understanding is that every person is intrinsically worthy and has innate dignity, including the modern conception of human rights.

But it’s really deeper. To be created in the image of G-d is to be created with that essential divine feature of freedom: freedom to choose and freedom to act. The human being is to be an active participant in the events of one’s life and not a bystander or a victim.

No matter our temperament character and personalities, or life’s circumstances, we have the freedom to choose. Because we created in the image of G-d, we are never destined to be a certain way. No matter our nature, upbringing or intelligence, we inherently have control over our lives and how we respond to circumstances.

So fundamental to success is the belief that success is possible. Obstacles can be overcome, even if they are self-created, and even if these limitations have been part of our lives for many decades.

About the Author
Born in London England. Studied at Lubavitch’s Yeshivas in Paris and New York. Chabad Shliach on Long Island.
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