There is a line from the Morning Prayer that shouts out to me each and every day.
It shakes me to the core and does not let me rest: “…so that we do not struggle in vain, nor produce for futility.
There was once a Jew who died but his town could not bury him for they followed the Jewish custom that before a person is buried some of his praises must be mentioned.
Alas, no one was able to find anything worthy of praise for this Jew.
The town was torn; should they ignore this custom and proceed with the burial without any words of praise?
Finally, the local hairdresser claimed to have found a most noteworthy praise: “I was the deceased man’s hairdresser,” he told the townsmen, “and he had long, beautiful and silky hair!”
I suspect that there are many people out there that would agree with the hairdresser and categorize hair, and many other physical traits, as praiseworthy attributes.
Some may even work hard their entire lives to achieve and develop these traits.
But, it is exactly this type of “futility” that I do not want to “produce.”
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
On the occasion of the 75th birthday of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz