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I have a need

“How are you doing, given everything?” a reporter recently asked Volodymr Zelensky. “My life today is wonderful. Because I believe that I am needed. That’s the most important sense of life: that you are needed. You are not just an emptiness that breathes and walks and eats something.”

Human beings are meant to be needed. Being needed quickens the pulse of your spirit.

This is in contrast to spiritually deflating things. A biblical Jeremiah in this week’s prophetic passage brings a strong rebuke of religious malpractice. It’s wrong to glory in your wisdom, in your might, or in your wealth. Too much inhaling isn’t good for you. Boasting about your talents makes you much smaller than when you give somebody else a boost.

Instead, Jeremiah centers us. God delights in adding three concrete actions: non-profitable kindness (hesed), justice (mishpat), and rightness (tzedakah) (Jer. 9:23). Note how deeds, even more than thoughts and prayers, invite divine favor.

President Zelensky’s speech to Congress this week called upon their leadership “to keep justice in history.” It should be remembered as his I have a need speech. Yet he wasn’t only playing off of MLK’s I have a dream speech. He was reminding listeners of how expressing a need can help build trust.

As optimist Simon Sinek likes to say, we don’t build trust with others by offering to help. We do so by asking for it. Not as some free lunch. But saying instead, “I’m struggling. I’ve been trying my best. I keep trying different things. Some are helping. But I can’t seem to figure out how to get this done. I need help. Can you help me?”

A woman who escaped under gunfire from Mariupol yesterday, said she survived in order to testify. “Three days ago a shell shattered some windows. A woman was wounded in her hip. She laid all night on the first floor of the high school asking for someone to give her poison so she would not feel the pain. Every day and every night there are fire shots, whistles, shaking walls and horror: Where will it hit.”

The next time you feel helpless. Call somebody you trust. Odds are high that they won’t be feeling quite as low as you are at that particular moment. They will remind you that you’re not helpless, that you can do things that matter. You will do the same for them someday, giving them a lift when they call you in need.

May this Shabbat awaken you to how deeply needed you are. And may your actions, no matter their scope, help to keep justice in history.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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