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Shoot for the stars

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Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest footballer of our generation. Although he may be in the twilight of his career, upon his transfer to Paris Saint-Germain last year, more than a million Messi shirts were sold worldwide. Millions of children and adults look to Messi as their role model. Though they don’t have the physical attributes and talent of Messi, they aspire to reach beyond their limitations and emulate the best.

Striving to be our best selves physically and spiritually is a natural part of the human condition. The Torah teaches that in the realm of spirituality, we need to shoot for the stars and emulate G-d. In several places in the Torah, G-d tells the Jewish people to be holy “because I am holy”. G-d implores us to reach beyond our limitations and strive for spiritual greatness.

The Torah doesn’t leave us in the dark to work out how to do that for ourselves. G-d tells us exactly how to be holy both in the way we treat others and the way we connect to G-d.

Regarding our fellow human beings, the Gemara in Shabbos explains that just as G-d is compassionate, we too should be compassionate, just as G-d is merciful, we too should be merciful. There are many laws that define our behaviour towards others. We’re supposed to treat others with patience and forgiveness, just as G-d is consistently patient and forgiving towards us.

Not only are we required to treat others with respect and dignity, we’re also expected to respect their property. We’re supposed to take responsibility for society and assist those in need. The details of this conduct are clearly laid out in the Torah. In this way, we become holy, emulating G-d.

Regarding our relationship with G-d, we need to be able to connect to an eternal abstract force that is beyond ourselves. The way we do so is by following G-d’s commandments. The positive commandments bring us close to G-d, like keeping Shabbos and shmita, as commanded in this week’s parsha. The negative commandments help us to avoid blocking up the channels that connect us to G-d, like keeping the laws of kashrut.

A person who reaches for the stars and strives to emulate G-d lives in a world filled with meaning, light, and purpose. A person without this focus is often left with a sense of worthlessness and futility. The soul or conscience has a deep longing to connect to G-d and the existential truth of the world, and will constantly drive us to search for meaning. Fortunate is the person who reaches for the stars and achieves holiness in their life.

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