The answer is all of the above. However, underlying all the motivations is something even more profound: The repression of self-expression in a people.
Humans are different than all other species. We have a passion for creativity. We feel most accomplished when we have done something unique that represents our true inner self.
Each person is unique. Just as no two people have the same DNA or fingerprints, similarly no two people have the same passions, talents or abilities. Innately, everyone knows that we have something unique to contribute.
The moment we feel that our self-expression is being stymied by an outside force, be that an employer, a parent, a spouse or a government, we become uncomfortable, often depressed, and want out. If we can’t see a way out life can cease to be worth living. This desperation can cause, people to risk their lives so that they will be able to experience true and free self-expression.
The repression of self-expression is arguably the most evil part of a despotic dictatorship or any repressive society – including some repressive religious societies. A believer in God understands that everything that exists has a purpose.
As the Talmud points out: No person thinks or looks exactly like another (Brachot 58a). Any one-size-fits-all system not only destroys the individual on a personal level, but on a cosmic level it disallows one to complete their unique purpose in the universe, thus, corrupting the divine plan.
The Torah clearly emphasizes the importance of each person using their own unique passions, talents and abilities for a positive, creative purpose. After the ancient Israelites created and completed the Tabernacle, the Torah says, “Moses saw all the work (of the Tabernacle) and behold it was done, it was done just as God had commended, and Moses blessed them,” (Exodus, 39:43).
'Just as God had commanded'
The Midrash tells us Moses’ blessing to the Israelites is found in Psalm 90, wherein Moses asks God, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” (Psalms 90:12). In other words, Moses is asking God to teach us how we can use our days so that they are personally and cosmically meaningful.
A later verse provides the answer which reads, “May the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; establish the work of our hands upon us—establish the work of our hands for Him,” (Psalms, 90:17). One interpretation is that the beauty of God is upon us when we are using our God-given, passions, talents and abilities. At that point the work of our hands is established upon us, or upon our unique self-expression. When that happens, we are fulfilling our purpose in this world and the work of our hands is established for Him--meaning we are doing God’s will.
This is what the Israelites did when they created the Tabernacle. Each person used their unique God-given skills to create the Tabernacle. When it was completed the Torah commented, “behold it was done, it was done just as God had commended, and Moses blessed them.”
The two components of this are: First, it was done, second, it was done just as God had commanded. This teaches us that as long as each person uses their creative passions in a way that is a true expression of themselves, they will be carrying out all their actions “just as God had commanded.”
Any person, society, or government which stymies an individual’s self-expression not only disturbs the individual, but also corrupts the will of God. But we need remember that the opposite is also true.
Rabbi Levi Brackman is author of Jewish Wisdom for Business Success: Lesson from the Torah and Other Ancient Texts
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