William Hamilton

Is this important to you?

“I was bad at remembering names. And this didn’t bother me. I just wasn’t good at it.” So says optimist Simon Sinek. “Then, one day somebody told me it mattered to people. That not remembering disappointed them, but remembering their names could lift their spirits. So I decided to get better at it. Now, when I meet somebody, I try to repeat their name and thank them by name at the end of our conversation.” 

What’s so interesting to me about this is that it shows how we can decide to make something unimportant to us, more important. Particularly, when we learn how much it matters to somebody we care about. This runs deeper than priority-setting. It cuts to your core, your inner-region where it grazes alongside your will

Nothing is mightier than your will. It can melt-down mountainous obstacles. It can smooth-over bouldered roadways. When you fiercely want something, you run, and gush, and rush toward it. You’re all in. That means all of you. Every ounce of adrenaline pours into your effort. And you stay with it, as long and as tenaciously as you possibly can.

This week’s portion of Torah features an appearance of five daughters who earn the right to inherit land. They confess that their father had died for his wilderness-sin. And because he never had a son, God emphatically approves their right to inherit. This isn’t the work of 20th century suffrage. It’s the 3500-year-old work of the Bible.

One of our community’s gifted teachers, Leann Shamash, reminded us this week that the meanings of the names of all five daughters are about movement. In life, things don’t hold still. The soaring and plummeting of crypto-currency is but a glaring example of what’s true about most of reality. Whatever you’re feeling right now, it’s pretty clear that you’ll have different feelings criss-crossing through you in a few hours from now. 

One daughter’s name in particular is today’s focus for me: Tirza. Her name derives from words meaning to run and to want. So she’s named for how she runs to fulfill her will. Clearly, her will, along with those of her sister’s, is aligned with God’s. The Torah has a lot more to say about the will of God than the nature of God. That is, what’s important to God. Things like generating goodness and solacing suffering. 

A reliable way to measure what’s important to you is to take a careful look at what things you run to fulfill. 

I once asked a favor from a good friend and mentor. He responded very kindly, after he first asked me, “Is this important to you?”

When you deeply will something, you don’t give up until you’ve exhausted every possible way to make it happen. May you find your will cozying-up to God’s. 

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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