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Vayeira: How To Gauge Your Egotism?

On a scale from one to ten how self-centred do you think you are?

What gauge does one use to measure this trait? How do you think others perceive you? Human nature contains a self-serving bias. It is impossible to be absolutely objective about anything that affects us in some way. This bias blind spot is part of our DNA. There is a phrase attributed to the former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that goes like this: “There are known knowns; things we know we know. There are known unknowns; things we know we do not know. Then there are unknown unknowns; things we don't know we don't know”. When it comes to being aware of our own natural biases it would be most accurate to place these under the category of the “unknown unknowns”. That is to say, not only do we not see our own biases, we are not even aware that we have any. Our challenge in life is to become aware of our own biases when it comes to taking a view about anything that relates to us. It is impossible for human beings to completely transcend these instincts. However It is possible to appreciate that these biases do exist and that we must be super cautious in making these judgments. We can do this by spending much more time deliberating before we rush to judgment about anything in which we have a personal interest. We must also spend more time consulting with others. To listen carefully to a different point of view. We must always remember that this space is our blind spot and we need serious caution in navigating this difficult terrain. The story of Abraham as told in the Torah portion we read this week is all about the above. It is a series of tests that G-d places before Abraham challenging him to discover his true self, which at its core is selfless. As Abraham encounters each hurdle he is forced to dig ever deeper. To discover a purity of purpose beyond any self interest whether materially or spiritually. He does so until he reaches the Temple Mount ready to sacrifice his son to G-d. It is at this stage that he has fully submitted to a cause greater then himself. There is nothing in it for him. It is at they point that G-d has finally found his man. Someone whom he could trust to fulfil his mission in this world. Someone who has no personal interest or bias. Someone who is totally subsumed by the cause with which he eventually becomes synonymous.

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