We all have our rules to live by. Brush and floss. Shop wholesale. Apply sunscreen liberally.
While these rules may make our lives more comfortable and pleasant, they fall short of defining the essence of what a human being is all about. We need some greater goals to nurture our souls.
We need some rules for making this a better world.
Recently, I was asked by a Shabbat Shalom reader to come up with my own list. These aren't meant to replace the Ten Commandments, but perhaps they will help focus you in the right direction. So without further ado, here are "Packouz's 10 Rules for Perfecting Humanity."
- Speak right
- Act with honesty and integrity
- Respect Others
- Do kindness for others
- Study wisdom
- Work for a cause
- Be humble
- Make a daily accounting
- Be real with God and life
1) Speak Right
Gossip is the verbal atomic bomb of relationships. It destroys marriages, businesses, friendships. Just because something is "true" doesn't mean that you have to -- or should -- say it.
High level people speak about ideas; average people speak about things' inferior people speak about people. Go for the high level. A kind word at the right time can change a life and inspire greatness.
2) Act with Honesty and Integrity
Your word is your bond. You may gain in the short-term in money or success through dishonesty, but it will cost you a loss of respect, trust, love and close relationships.
And, if you always answer truthfully, you will avoid doing things that you would be embarrassed to explain.
3) Respect Others
Rabbi Akiva said it best: "Don't do unto others as you would not want done to you." Every person on this planet is created in the image of the Almighty. If you don't respect others, you don't respect the Almighty.
4) Do Kindness for Others
Go out of your way each day to help others. Hold a door for someone, help carry the groceries into the house, listen when you would rather run away, smile at others and find something nice to say. Meaning in life comes from serving a higher goal... and helping others is a very noble goal.
5) Study Wisdom
Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers, says: "An uneducated person cannot be righteous." You need to study wisdom in order to know what to do or what not to do, what to say or what not to say. Study of wisdom keeps you focused and helps you grow. It keeps you in contact with your beliefs and values. The Torah is a compendium of wisdom, the instruction book for life.
6) Work for a Cause
Be bigger than yourself. Work to perfect the world. On your deathbed, you'll look back on life. Do you want your life to be measured in terms of how many vacations you took or how many steaks you ate? Or would you rather measure your life by what you did to help others and to make this a better world?
One person together with the Almighty is a majority. You can change the world -- or your community -- or your family -- or yourself. Love justice, and counter injustice and evil.
7) Be Humble
Wisdom only enters a humble person. An arrogant person is too full of himself for anything to enter.
Humility is not "letting people walk all over you"; humility is knowing exactly what your talents and capabilities are, and knowing that they are gifts from the Almighty. What would you think of a person who says, "Hey, look at me -- I can wave my hand!" Is it any different if a person says, "Hey, look at me -- I can do differential calculus"?
Don't be arrogant over using your potential. Be thankful.
God doesn't need our prayers. But we need to pray, in order to focus on the source of our blessings, the Almighty. Knowing from where our blessings come makes it good for the Almighty to give to us.
Even if a person doesn't believe in God, praying makes a person realize that he himself is not God.
9) Make a Daily Accounting
Growth and accomplishment only come through focus and effort. Each day ask yourself: 1) What am I living for? 2) How did I move closer toward my goal today? 3) How did I move away from my goal today? 4) Can I refine my goal to make it better?
10) Be real with God and with Life
Being real with God is realizing that there are consequences for your actions. There is no free lunch. Ultimately there is reward for good actions and punishment for transgressions... if not in this world, then in the next.
Being real with life is realizing that you are going to die. We think there is a club of people who die ... and we don't belong. Everyone dies. If you had a clock on top of your television counting down to the day of your death, at what point would you get up and turn off the TV and do all the things that you've been putting off?
This is my list. It would be worthwhile to make your own list. After all, it's your life! For some great ideas, try reading "Love Your Neighbor" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin (available through http://aish.com/a/eichlers/).