A psychiatrist received the following postcard from a vacationing former patient: “Having a wonderful time. Why?”
It is a good question. I have often observed that people come to my office when bad things happen and wonder why God permitted this difficulty in their lives. But far less often do I hear, “You know, I was born to loving parents in the richest country in the world. Why me?”
It is natural to assume that we deserve all the blessings given to us but the trials and tragedies are undeserved. Yet so much of our good fortune is, in fact, unearned. If you have a functioning brain, it is a gift. If you were born into a loving family, it is a gift. If you have never gone hungry, been caught in a natural disaster, on and on — you have been extravagantly blessed. Surely that merits wondering why?
It merits something else as well, gratitude and a sense of responsibility. We should not feel guilty for good fortune, but we should be grateful and try to spread it to others. The answer to blessing is prayer and tzedakah. If we practice both, that may be the answer to the question, why me?
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book, “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press), has recently been published.