Life as a human being is all about investments. Mostly high risk investments.
We humans don’t just do things. Or say things. Or even just think things. We invest ourselves in them. We almost become the thing we are doing. We are Homo Investus.
Sometimes we invest ourselves through the proxy of our money. Sometimes it’s an investment of time. Or energy. Or talents.
But if it’s something that matters to us, then, in some way or another, all of us is in there. Whatever happens to that investment of ours, whether it’s a gain or a loss or a roller coaster ride, it’s as though it’s happening to our own selves.
There's a reason we are this way. The highest-risk investment of all is life itself. The archetype of all investments is life itself.The archetype of all investments was when G‑d invested your soul into a body in this world.
Your soul began all bundled up in blissful union with the infinite light, nurtured with eternal love. And then you heard a voice:
“Come my little soul. It is time for you to leave. To descend below.”
“Where is below?” you asked.
“It is a place of darkness, where only a trickle of a reflection of a glimmer of this light can enter, concealed by many veils. It is a body, a slab of meat with two eyes and two legs. It is a place where each thing believes it is a god, where ugliness beckons you, dressed in the clothing of a temptress.”
“And why am I going there?”
“Because it awaits you to purify it, to fix it, to raise it to the place it belongs.”
“I suppose I’ll give it a try,” you replied.
“You don’t understand,” said the voice. “You are going into that body, and your destiny is tied up with its destiny. When that body shall accept your light, you will rise to a place far beyond anything you can know here above. But as long as that body remains dark, you will be trapped in the darkness along with it. Where it goes, you go.”
Everything that works follows this model. Everything important in life is an investment that requires taking real risks. Any worthwhile investment means that all of you is in there.Everything that really matters requires putting all of yourself—investing your very soul—into the moment and tying yourself to the outcome.
Why? Because that is how every life begins, and that is what every life is about. And so that is how it is in business, and so too in every investment in life.
You cannot help another person until you have felt that person’s pain. You cannot teach a student until you can hear your words from within your student’s mind. You cannot bring about real change in a community unless you identify yourself as one of its members. You cannot solve any problem in the world in a real, lasting way, unless it means everything to you.
Monique Sternin tells of the time she arrived in New Zealand on a project to assist Maori women. One of the elder women told her:
If you are here to help me, I don’t need your help, and your help is useless. But if your destiny is tied to my destiny, then we can work together.
You can only fix things from the inside out. And so, real life means living dangerously.
Is it fair? Is it worth the risk to send a pure and innocent soul below and tie its destiny to that of this harsh world?
In truth, there is a precedent even to this archetype of the soul,Creation was the first investment. and that is the very creation of all being.
An unbounded Creator could have created the world in any manner that He would so decide. But He chose that in this act of creation He will invest His very essence and being. In each thing, He will be found, all of Him.
He will suffer in the pain of His creatures as He will rejoice in their gladness. He will be lost in their confusion as He will be found in their beauty. He will be imprisoned in the cold, hard cells of their hearts as He will be redeemed in the warm pulse of their love and joy. He will lock Himself into His own creation, and He will not come out of His cell until His creatures will redeem Him from there.
And that is why there is hope for the soul. And that is why it is not only fair, it is well worth the pain. Because, no matter where it goes, the soul has never left its Beloved. They are in this together.
How do you stay above it all, while investing your entire being within it all?
In the archetype,How do you stay above, while investing your all within? the Creator remains beyond even as He enters within. So too, the soul remains a pure soul even as it merges to become one with a human body and its animal drives.
But as we enter the world as citizens of the world to change the world, how do we stay beyond the world? Because if we do not stay beyond, we will have no power to make any change at all.
For this, we are sent tzadikim. Souls that stay connected directly to their source no matter where they are found. And so, they can connect others to their own source, no matter where they may have fallen.
A tzadik is not here to do your job. The true tzadik, like the soul, like G‑d Himself, invests in you. And with that investment, you are empowered.
Rabbi Moshe Yitzchak Hecht had been the investment of the Rebbe and his predecessor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, in New Haven, Connecticut, since 1941. The demands on him grew year by year, with a synagogue, a school, a yeshiva, and many other responsibilities that required a staff several times that which he could afford.
In 1974, he wrote to the Rebbe complaining that after 33 years of work he felt he was back at the same place as when he started. He simply could not continue.
He signed off the letter with a heart-rending plea: “The Rebbe should send help and do all he can.”
The Rebbe responded, much as any good investor would have responded:
Even before you asked, I’ve already followed your advice. I’ve sent there Rabbi Moshe Yitzchak Hecht. But it appears from your letter, and from those preceding it, that you still are not familiar with him and with the capabilities with which this person is endowed.
Whatever the case, you should get to know him now. Immediately, everything will change—your mood, your trust in G‑d, everyday happiness, etc., etc.
The tzadik shows you something about yourself that you could not discover on your own. He shows you the power of your own soul. Because he sees how it is connected above.
In his last years, the Rebbe spoke about how every one of us must be that tzadik—each in our small way.When you’re connected above, you don’t fall down. We must each be one who stands above even while entering within, shedding light wherever light will enter, connecting all those that we can reach with their own true selves.
But to do that, you need to be connected to a true tzadik, one whose place is entirely above.
The Rebbe would tell the story of Rabbi Meir of Premishlan:
Each day, Rabbi Meir would climb a steep mountain to purify himself by immersing in a spring of water. Even in the snow and ice, he would climb, steadily and with ease.
The townspeople saw this feat as miraculous. But a few young men balked. One winter day, they followed Rabbi Meir, just to show that they could climb with the same ease as the old man.
And, of course, they slipped and fell.
The young men asked, “Rabbi Meir, how do you do it? Why don’t you fall?”
“When you are connected above,” answered the elderly tzadik, “you don’t fall down.”
The last sparks remain to be rescued. We must travel deep within their cavern. To do so, we must stay yet more connected above.Yet higher. Yet tighter.