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Vayechi: Can You Be Purely Altruistic?

Why are we kind towards others? Are we being altruistic or are we really just thinking about ourselves? Are we able to do an act of kindness that is purely altruistic? Our human operating system is highly complex. There are countless levels in the conscious and subconscious worlds that comprise our being. Most of us have limited awareness or the courage needed to discover the true motives behind our behavior. According to the mystical tradition as explained by the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Jew is comprised of two souls: The ‘Animal Soul’ and the ‘G-dly soul’. Both these souls are competing continuously to find expression in our consciousness and behavior. In simple terms this would translate into two primary forces, the “selfish” and the selfless, constantly in battle to be the primary force to inspire and guide our behavior every moment of our lives. So is it possible to be completely selfless? The short answer is, no. What about doing an act of pure kindness? Extremely difficult, but, yes. In the closing Torah portion of Genesis we read about Jacobs final request he makes to his son Joseph. He pleads with him to do an act of “kindness and truth” and to bury him together with his ancestors. Rashi explains this to mean, a “true act of kindness”. In other words, it is a pure act of kindness. An act where there is no “return” on the “investment”. This then is the legacy which Jacob our forefather passes on to all of us through his son Joseph. He is both urging and empowering us to transcend our selfish instincts by listening and empathising with the feelings of others. Switch off from obsessing about yourself. Pay more attention to your friends and family. 

Listen carefully to what they are saying and even more so to what they are not saying. Begin the journey to discover your true self. A self which at its core is one and same with all humanity. 

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