It’s the biggest night of the year in Hollywood.
The 85th Academy Awards are around the corner. Millions of people around the world will be glued to their TVs to learn who will be chosen as winners of the coveted Oscar awards. Originally, Oscars were only given to the best actor and actress. It was a decade later the film industry decided to add another award: Best supporting actor and actress.
This resonates with a message that has powerful implications for all of us.
Maturity, it’s well been said, is the time when we learn to reconcile our grandiose dreams with our realistic limitations. Growing up, I had to slowly shed some of the wished for self-images conjured up by my imagination. From my childlike worship of baseball stars and Olympic gold winners, I had to eventually acknowledge I would never be a Babe Ruth or a Jesse Owens. And even as my heroes changed from the physical world of athletics to the spiritual realm of rabbinic figures like Rabbi Soleveitchik and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I had to face the daunting truth that I was simply not on a par with their level.
Perhaps I can receive a divine Oscar by using my talents in a supporting role that in its own way is just as important.
Yes, I could aspire to be like them. But with the passage of years I recognized there was no way I would ever reach their pinnacle of perfection. There are those who are simply better than I am. Yet, alongside of this humbling perception, it dawned upon me that in trying to fulfill the mission for which God sent me here on earth I don’t necessarily have to have the leading role. Perhaps I can make myself worthy of a divine Oscar by using my talents in a supporting role that in its own way might be just as important.
Mordechai’s Supporting Role
Jewish history is filled with stories that emphasize not only the heroes who played the leads but the supporting actors whose efforts helped make God’s plans possible to be realized. The biblical book which records the miracle of the story of Purim is named after Queen Esther. She is the one who asked the King to spare her people. She is the one who dared to come uninvited to the Persian ruler when her action might very well have resulted in her death. She is the one directly responsible for the hanging of Haman and the right granted to the Jews to defend themselves from the impending threat of genocide.
But none of that would have happened were it not for the behind-the-scenes advice, courage and wisdom of her uncle Mordechai.
Esther got her name on the Megillah’s marquee. On the surface, Mordechai seems to have no more than a supporting role. But without him it’s clear there would have been no Purim.
In Jewish tradition, there is no one as great as Moses. It is one of the 13 principles of our faith, as codified by Maimonides, that “there arose no one in Israel like Moses, a prophet who perceived His [God’s] likeness.” Moses played the leading role as liberator of the Jews from the slavery of Egypt, as lawgiver at Sinai, and as head of his people for the 40 years they wandered in the desert until they reached the Promised Land.
But even he did not suffice as leader. The Jews needed Aaron as well. Aaron loved and pursued peace. Aaron was the “people person” who was desperately needed as High Priest. And when Aaron died, the people mourned him greatly for 30 days. Like his brother, Aaron too deserved a divine Oscar for his part in a supporting role.
There are countless examples of bit players in the Bible. Each one’s contribution was significant. But there is one who needs to be mentioned above all. And it is someone who continues to play the part to this very day.
Your Starring Role
In a daring comment on the story of creation, the Jerusalem Talmud tells us that “God created man to become a partner in the act of creation.” God left the world unfinished so that humankind can play a role in its perfection.
Every one of us has a supporting role crucial to the heavenly script.
The story of life itself stars the Almighty but assigns to every one of us a part as supporting actor or actress. We all have a divine task in bringing the world closer to perfection. None of us would have been cast in the heavenly script for human existence if we didn’t have a specific purpose.
Our mission on earth is to discover our role, no matter how small a part we are meant to play. As parent, as friend, as professional or as dedicated worker, as someone who can bring a measure of joy to others or someone who can serve as a source of blessing to his or her community, each one of us needs to learn the reason why God felt it necessary to create us.
And when we play our supporting role to the very best of our ability we should take satisfaction in knowing that this too will merit our receiving God’s Oscar.