In this week’s Torah portion (Shelach), spies are sent to explore Israel in preparation for conquest. They were given several tasks including assessing whether the land was fat or thin. The Ohr Hachaim interprets this to mean, is the land capable of producing healthy produce year after year or are the nutrients quickly depleted, requiring a fallow year between harvest years.
Judge yourself, not others
We often witness people’s extraordinary talents and expect the same of ourselves. We try to emulate those who invite multitudes of Shabbos guests or volunteer countless hours to individuals and organizations. What we don’t take into account is the fact that everyone has different strengths and resiliency. Similar to different types of land, some people are born capable of constantly nurturing those around them while others require breaks in order to give the best of themselves. More valuable than judging yourself against others, is examining whether you are living up to your individual potential. When we push ourselves beyond our capabilities, we are hurting ourselves, family members, and possibly even the very people we are trying to help.
When we hurt, we hurt
It is well established that after a trauma, those with more social connections, fare better. An interesting study published this past March in the American Journal of Psychiatry examined this more closely. They found that after a disaster, regardless of the amount of social support a person received, if those connections were depressed or had PTSD, that person was more likely to become depressed or develop PTSD himself. The lesson is clear. Trying to help the world is a noble ambition, however it is wise to build up your own nutrients first by optimizing your mental health and resiliency so that you can more effectively nurture those around you.