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Why Were You Not Zusya

I have come across a story a few times that I have seen called “Why Were You Not Zusya?” This story relates to the Hasidic Rabbi Zusya (Rabbi Zusya of Hanipol). As far as I can tell, there are various tellings and translations, but the one I have seen is attributed to Martin Buber (Wikipedia). Here is a rendition (found on this blog); the emphasis is mine:

On his deathbed he began to cry uncontrollably and his students and disciples tried hard to comfort him. They asked him, “Rabbi, why do you weep? You are almost as wise as Moses, you are almost as hospitable as Abraham, and surely heaven will judge you favourably.”

Zusya answered them: “It is true. When I get to heaven, I won’t worry so much if God asks me, ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Abraham?’ or ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Moses?’  I know I would be able to answer these questions.  After all, I was not given the righteousness of Abraham or the faith of Moses but I tried to be both hospitable and thoughtful.  But what will I say when God asks me, ‘Zusya, why were you not more like Zusya?’

I agree with many others who view this as a call to action. The action of putting our uniqueness, our individuality, and our truest selves confidently and proudly into the world. It is a call to act with integrity and authenticity.

I frequently come back to this telling. It really resonates with me, especially as I have been spending the last few years on a true identity-finding safari. Frequently reflecting on stories like this is invaluable, I think. Even though we might “know” the moral behind the story (and heard it a thousand times), sometimes you need that repetition for it to really sink in.

Thanks for reading everyone <3

Day 26 of the #100DaysToOffload challenge done :)