Lazer Gurkow
Lazer Gurkow

Finding Our Calling

To find our calling is the hallmark of life. Life isn’t a generic formula that can be applied to everyone equally. Each life is unique; each life story is highly individual. As children, we live with our parents and family, but as we grow and mature, we venture forth and find our calling.

We need to look for the things that excite us, the things that we are good at, the things that need doing, and the things that are worthy of doing. When we find something at the intersection of these criteria, we can be said to have found our calling.

Jacob’s Journey
“And Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran.” That is the opening passage of this week’s Torah portion. Beersheba was his family homestead, where Jacob spent his formative years. But the time arrived for Jacob to leave home. To spread his wings and find his calling in foreign pastures.

Let’s examine this passage a little more closely to seek inspiration for our own quest to find our calling. In Hebrew, Beersheba means the well of seven.

In life, we draw on seven emotional wells for our social and internal equilibrium. According to the Kabalah, these seven wells are kindness, determination, compassion, endurance, humility, attachment, and engagement with others. When we leave the bosom of home, the cocoon in which we were warm and secure, protected and safe, we need to draw on these seven wells as we learn to interface with others.

We will meet new people and encounter new circumstances. Some will be rewarding and secure, others will be dangerous and punishing, and we need to draw on our inner resources to strike the right balance. To know when to engage and when to withdraw, when to be determined and when to be compassionate. Our time at home is spent filling our seven wells—learning all the social and spiritual skills that we will need to navigate the big world. And when our wells are full, it is time to journey forth. To strike out on our own and find our calling.

However, note that Beersheba does not mean seven wells. It means the well of seven. Ultimately, all seven wells draw their strength from one master well that fills them. In life, this master well is the love of our parents and the support of our family. They fill us with confidence and self-esteem, nourish our spirits and help us flourish. They enable to grow up with emotional equilibrium. When our primary well is full, it spills over into the other seven wells and fills them too. When we feel secure, we can be kind. When we feel confident, we can be determined, etc.

Then there is the cosmic element that transcends life. In a cosmic spiritual sense, the well that fills the seven wells is our soul’s attachment to G-d. Before we were born, our soul luxuriated in the Heavenly spheres where it enjoyed a deeply fulfilling relationship with G-d. It is this depth of connection and bond that nourishes our soul on its journey down to earth where it will need to draw on all seven wells to succeed.

The cocoon of home is comforting, but we are not meant to remain there. It is comforting for our souls in the spiritual palace of the heavens, but it is not intended to remain above. The intention is for us to fill our primary well so that we can fill our seven wells and go find our mission.

Why We Go
Why can’t we just stay home? Because home is not an end, it is just a means. As comfortable and comforting as home might be, it is just an incubator. A premature baby is placed in a warm bright incubator to help it grow. But the intention is never for the baby to remain in the incubator, G-d forbid. An incubator is a tool designed to help the baby escape and live in the real world.

Home is also an incubator. It is lovely, comforting, and warm, but we are not meant to remain there. We will never find our calling at home. We will never grow into our full selves and discover our full potential when we are at home. After we are fortified with the warmth, fortitude, and emotional health that we can receive at home, we must make our way into the world.

When we pit ourselves against the challenges of the world and use our resources to overcome them and improve our lot, we come fully into ourselves. When we use our spirituality and innate holiness to bring holiness and purity to a community where it is sorely lacking, we transcend ourselves. We achieve something that could never have been achieved at home and are rewarded in ways that we could never be rewarded at home.

Perfecting The World
But that is not the entire reason for leaving home. If that were the only reason, it would ultimately be a selfish journey centered around self-reward. The real reason we leave home is that a portion of the world is waiting for our contribution. If we stay at home, that part of the world will remain forever incomplete.

There is a house that needs building, a business that needs forming, a field that needs tending, and a river that needs bending. There is a wilderness that needs to be tamed and a mountain that needs to be scaled. There are people that need to be inspired and students that need to be taught. There are friends that need to be nourished and a spouse that is waiting to be married.

An entire world out there is waiting for our unique contribution. These are things that only we can do and no one else can do quite like us. If someone else could do precisely what we can do, G-d would not bother making us. He would make that other person and have them pull double duty.

G-d made us because we each have unique strengths that suit the unique requirements that we will encounter on our journey through life. We each have unique abilities to perform unique tasks. These tasks have been waiting for us for many thousands of years. No one quite like us has ever come around and no one quite like us will ever come again. We are history’s only chance to be graced by the unique contribution that we can make.

So, we embark on our journey in a quest to find our calling and purpose. To find the people and things that require our unique gifts. When we find it, we will play a vital role in the overall scheme of creation. We will help to make the world better and holier in a way that only we can.

This is the only reason we came to this world, and we don’t want to miss out on it by remaining at home. When we each contribute our part, the world will be a perfect place and Mashiach will finally arrive.

About the Author
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, a renowned lecturer, serves as Rabbi to Congregation Beth Tefilah in London Ontario. He is a member of the curriculum development team at Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and is the author of two books and nearly a thousand online essays. You can find his work at www.innerstream.org
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