The law of life is limitation. Our world is infinitely rich but our lives are not endless, so we have to decide what to cherish, what to discard, what to bypass, what to hold close. You can devote your life to a person, a cause, a craft, a quest, an institution, a dream, but you cannot do all at once. As Job says, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6).
One way to judge priorities is to fast-forward: at the end of life, what would you be proud to have done? Writing a premature eulogy that turns into a life agenda is a useful exercise.
Another and common strategy is to reach, serially, for all the things one wants. This leads to momentary satisfactions and enduring frustrations. As Rabbi Akiba reminded us, in grabbing too much we end up in holding nothing.
The wisest strategy may be to rejoice in life’s richness while understanding one will never absorb it all. Buy more books than you can read, meet more interesting people than you can know, hold few things close and understand that an inexhaustible world is far better than a paltry one. Grasp much; leave more; be grateful.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.