And so it was with introspection and reckoning that I attended Rabbi Rachel Shere’s Torah study this morning at Adat Shalom Synagogue. She took a magnifying glass to the 10 Commandments and asked, “Is the first commandment even a commandment?”

“I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.”

Unlike every other commandment (which is a command – YOU WILL…), this one is a declaration. The first word, in Hebrew anochi, says I – not YOU, not remember, not an imperative.

And I offered that this very first instruction from the Creator, by its grammatical construction, says, “Look outside of yourselves, people. Don’t be so self-focused. Open your eyes, look up, wake up – the world is not about YOU.”

What a perfect day for this revelation, for my dearly departed mentor, Jeff Zaslow, devoted his illustrious writing career to looking outside of himself for the meaning in the world. He told other people’s stories so that we all could be moved and inspired. And when he wanted to write a book that showed his great love for his daughters, his wife encouraged him to write about bridal gowns, how others find love and meaning.

If our lives are built on staying muddled in our very own presence, we are truly being wasteful.

If, however, we focus our lives on looking outside of ourselves to how our work, our play, our funds, our fun can help others, well then, we are building righteous lives indeed.

And making a difference.

I tell my children that we are put on this earth to make the world better. It is a notion I did not embrace until I became a mother. And in this, my year of being 40, I am reminded of it even more.

In the last week, I’ve lost two friends. More importantly than me, though, the world has lost individuals who were lights unto the nations, inspiring beings whose every day routines, way of going about the mundane-ness of life, motivated and encouraged the rest of us to step it up, reach higher.

Enough focusing on ourselves. Let’s look up and be the light we wish to shine down on the world.

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