In his poem, “What Will Matter”, Michael Josephson ends it with the following:
Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident. It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice. Choose to live a life that matters.
To put it another way, it is our own choice to pursue a life of meaning. It is both our privilege, and our right, to pursue a life that is rich with what matters: love, the way we treat other people, our relationships, and our ethics.
In an age where we are being inundated with stories of people who have chosen to disregard their own ethical compass, and instead showcase behaviors that belittle and hurt others, where can we look to examine our own ethics?
For many of us, our sense of what really matters is passed on to us from our parents and teachers. In our community, it can come from one other place… Judaism. Our Jewish tradition provides us with a roadmap; a guide of how to live our lives and a measure for evaluating our choices and our actions. Judaism places chesed, treating others with loving kindness, kavod, having respect towards one another, and considering the impact our actions have on other people as paramount to living a good, meaningful, and righteous life.
Our Torah has clear instructions for us to, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We are commanded to welcome the stranger, seek and pursue justice, help those less fortunate, even when we don’t feel that we have anything to give, and on and on.
As we begin the new year, now is the time for all of us to remember the importance of living a life directed by a strong sense of what really matters. A life connected to other people, guided by a strong consideration of others. As we watch example after example of people in positions of power shoving ethics aside for their personal gain, ego, money, or fame, let us not lower ourselves to this standard. Their actions are choices just as much as our own actions are choices. It is up to us to choose another narrative, and imagine what our country would be like if Josephson’s mantra was embraced, upheld, and insisted on by all of us, including those who are in power?
As Voltaire and Peter Parker’s (Spiderman) Uncle Ben have said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Let us use our own power to choose good.