Chances are, there is something that you do particularly well, a knack you have that other people don’t. We talk of certain abilities as “God-given talents,” and we call children who show unusual academic aptitude “gifted.”
We all have our gifts, our special areas of natural facility. Also natural is our pride in our talents. When you’re good at something, there is an undeniable pleasure in knowing it. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being proud of an innate flair for writing or mathematics or athletic prowess. The problems start when we become content to sit around and brag about clever and talented we are without ever using our abilities for the good of our world.
Like clouds, wind—but no rain— Is one who boasts of gifts not given. (Proverbs 25:14)
I am grateful for the talents I have been given. I can take no credit for the combination of genetics and upbringing and soul that made me pretty darn good at some things. Even so, a big part of my identity is still wrapped up in being “the smart kid.” I was labelled “gifted and talented” in kindergarten, and I spent my entire childhood being praised for the fact that schoolwork came easily to me. I’m sure kids to whom athletic ability came without apparent effort got the same kind of acclaim for being so good at sports. With that kind of reinforcement, it’s easy to start thinking that the world owes us merely for existing, just for being smart/artistic/strong/what-have-you.
We all have our gifts. The question is, Do we wear our gifts like name tags, mere labels that tell others what we are? Or do we take our gifts as a cue to give of ourselves, to use our talents for tikkun olam, repairing the world?
If I do not give of my gifts, I am a storm cloud that blows and rumbles and puffs itself up with accumulated rain that it never lets fall to the parched earth. If I do not give, I help nothing in this world to blossom.
#BlogElul, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.