"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Sunday, October 17, 2010

FNQ – 5 q's for the week


Perhaps the most appropriate topic for this post (my first in 5 months or so) is priorities. I choose this topic because it is the reason why I have been unable to write anything for this blog for such a long time and it is the cause of great stress and tension in everyone's life. The struggle to prioritize and in turn to maximize the time and effort for those things that are higher on one's lists is great and perpetual. These are a few questions I have on this topic. Come back in a few days (hopefully) for my thoughts.

  1. What are the criteria one should use for determining what is most important in one's life?
  1. Is it reasonable to expect that a person lives a life where their top priorities are always given precedence over things of lesser importance?
  1. If I say something is important to me but constantly choose to do things of lesser importance in its stead am I being honest about what my priorities are?
  1. If I am responsible for the (physical / spiritual) well being of someone else – should my own needs ever take priority?
  1. In the perfect world will there be time for everything on our list of priorities or will it merely become clear how our time should be best spent?

Binyamin – always looking for a good question. (and glad to have once again found some)


  1. Really interesting questions. Thanks for posting, glad you're back!

  2. Prioritizing one's life desires is dynamic, not static. Priorities are an ever changing concept as one travels through the different chapters of life. What was a priority at 18 usually changes in the 20s, and again in the 30's and so on. So much of one's priorities is guided by their family commitments and life expectations. You cannot view priority as a "bucket list" of must does or you face serious disappointment. What most people fail to realize is that unless you intend to remain single for the rest of your life, any attempt to prioritize your wants and needs above those of your family represents "selfishness". Hence, one needs to learn how to balance personal priority over the needs of family. That is the unfortunate mistake so many young people make today; they never seem to get out of the "me" mode as a static force. Then, when situations call for a change in priority, they have difficulty coping and begin to unravel under the stress. Young couples need to develop realistic and mutually agreeable priorities that may create sacrifice of personal goals of each party. Marriage by definition represents are true partnership and hence, the sometimes twist and turns along life's road will be best navigated when both parties agree as to the proper direction without undue influence or coercion by the other member. Once a couple has children, what was a mutual priority now requires adjustment. The concept of lessor priority to me may not be appropriate. It simply may be a necessary action, perhaps requiring delayed gratification. For example, you may have a priority to sit and learn; however, is it fair to put all the burden on your wife to work, care for the children, prepare for Shabbat and Yom Tov, do the laundry, and have a less comfortable lifestyle. So, now the husband is forced to a cross-road. Does he pursue an income that will raise the family standard of living and learning an hour here and there, delaying more intensive learning again until retirement, or does he refuse to adjust priority stating that they agreed when they met at the age of 20-21 that he would sit and learn thereby sticking to his priority at the cost of perhaps marital disharmony? The bottom line is, a strong and happy marriage usually occurs when each person realizes that the needs of their spouse comes before their own and both together do the same with regard to their children. Any situation where one views his/her needs above his spouse or children sets up selfish motives and family disharmony. As for Question #5, the world is not perfect and it wasn't meant to be. Part of our role as Jews is to learn to put aside our personal wants and needs either for family or community. Self-made priority lists with refusal to be fluid in how one establishes and meets their intended goal is a recipe for disappointment and failure. Question 1 is easy, simply ask yourself "what do I need to do to bring happiness and fulfillment to to family and how can a feel some semblance of self reward by setting some limited amount of time for spiritual and/or physical growth. Then discuss it with your wife and develop a derech, understanding that the course may change along the way and you need to be prepared to change with it.