Going Beyond Ourselves

By: Talya Portnoy  |  February 6, 2020

By Talya Portnoy

I’ve been thinking for the past couple of hours about how I want to write an article about being Jewish, about what it means, what it is, and why I believe so firmly in what I do. And of course, these thoughts were all spurred by the horrifying anti-Semitic events that have occurred recently. And yet, despite all that, the words have not come, nor have I come up with a message I want to convey. And as I was thinking about this blockage I was having, I realized why. 

I watched a video of a recent JLI (Jewish Learning Institute) class. The topic was about selfish love vs. selfless love. The point being conveyed was that when you’re in a relationship (whether romantic or platonic) with someone and you’re focused on doing things for the other person that will benefit you, that isn’t true, selfless love, rather, that is a love where you are focusing on yourself, a love that you’re pursuing because in some way you will gain from it. Because of that, it’s a selfish love. 

However, when you take yourself out of the picture, and you do something for another person solely because you care about them (and NOT because you’ll receive something in return), that is unconditional love. As human beings, we have the ability to step outside of ourselves and rise above the natural ways we do things to achieve unconditional love. 

So when I originally thought about writing an article (and I’m exposing my subconscious thought process right now), I wanted it to reflect who I am. I was focused on you reading it and thinking something along the lines of: “Yeah girl, you’re damn right. That’s exactly what it is etc.” And because I realized what was going on subconsciously, I decided that I didn’t want this article to be about me or a reflection of who I am. 

Because in truth, what’s happening in this world isn’t about me. It’s about my family, my friends, my community, my neighbors, and every single person alive in this world. Because of that, I’m writing this. I’m writing this because I want the world that we live in to be a place of safety, a place of comfort, a place of love, and a place of peace. I want each of us to do what we can do to bring more light into this world. 

Relating back to the idea of selfish love — the horrifying acts that are taking place in the world today are each coming from a place of selfishness. The people committing the acts are thinking about how it’ll make them feel and what they’ll benefit from doing something so tragic. 

There’s one way we can combat this and that is:

Let’s spread the notion of doing something for someone else solely for the purpose of enhancing their life. Let us stop focusing on what we will gain or benefit by helping another. Rather, let us focus on what that person will gain when we help them. And when we practice this, we will be adding the light that is much needed in this world. We won’t only be affecting ourselves, because it’s not about ourselves. We will be stepping outside of our nature and we will be contributing to the world around us.

And the most beautiful part about this idea of doing something for someone else, for no other reason than to bring that person the light that they need, is that it’s not limited. It’s not limited to me. It’s not limited to you. It’s not limited to anyone or anything. Every single person alive in this world can do this. We each have this ability to look beyond what we’ll gain when we help another. And when we do this, we will begin creating a world of safety, a world of comfort, a world of love, and a world of peace.