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Irrationality, You've Met Your Match

Irrationality, You've Met Your Match

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I recently attended a fund-raising banquet for a local organization.

At the event, the evening's chairman rose to acknowledge his newly-deflated net worth, and then went on to bemoan the economy's devastating impact on charities. The charity's needs, he announced, compelled him to override his personal concerns and offer a generous donation.

Can you imagine? Someone feels the impact of a weak economy and responds by giving away more money? Does that make any sense?

Some might call his behavior irrational. I call it super-rationalSome might call his behavior irrational.

I call it super-rational.

What's the difference?

Rational behavior is sound, reasoned conduct.

Irrational behavior is an unreasonable departure from this logical path.

A common example lies in the way we follow our self-gratifying impulses, even as we recognize that they're self-ruinous. That's irrational behavior.

Super-rationality is also a departure from the reasoned path, but there's a world of difference.

Suppose you're busily working at the office on an important project, and it's time for your child's soccer game: do you leave? What if your project's success would seem to demand your work on Yom Kippur? What if there's a community need and your stock portfolio is down?

Reason might point in the direction of choosing the smart career move, but relationships – including the relationship with G‑d – aren't always about reason.

One might say that irrational conduct usually expresses our devotion to self, while super-rational conduct usually illustrates our devotion to others.

I'm not contending that we always need to act super-rationally; I'm pointing out that when you go beyond your rational best interest for the sake of a loved one, when you devote yourself super-rationally, you make a profoundly beautiful statement about your commitment to the relationship.

It's what turns an important relationship into an invaluable one.

In Chassidic thought, the super-rational is a primary antidote to the irrational and it's what gives even keel to the rational.

Relationships – including the relationship with G‑d – aren't always about reasonIt's about selflessness, commitment and love.

It's what makes the world go round.

Try it.


Based on a chassidic discourse by the Rebbe, entitled "Ba'ati L'gani," delivered on the 10th of Shevat 1951, on the occasion of his acceptance of the leadership of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

Rabbi Mendy Herson is director of the Chabad Jewish Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
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BE February 12, 2009

Irrationality "When I was in California" - everyone said I was out of my mind -- I guess I should be proud of that Reply