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Survival of the Fittest

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler records the following dramatic scene in his famous trilogy, “Strive for Truth”.  He describes what he once witnessed as a young man as he was running through the forest in pre-World War II Europe. A pack of ravenous wolves were searching for food.  When they came upon the carcass of a small, dead animal, they all pounced on it with unbelievable ferocity.  Their hunger overwhelmed them as they fought bitterly to see who would finally claim the prize.

Rather than focusing on their prey, they attacked each other until they all lay bleeding in the snow. When one finally got up to grab the dead animal, several of the others lunged at him once again to attack.  In the end, only one was strong enough to fight off his foes, grab the carcass in his jaws and run away, leaving a trail of his own blood dripping behind him.

A daily occurrence in the animal kingdom?  Very likely. The strong survive, the weak perish.  But at what expense?  The vanquished lay on the ground bleeding, hungrier than they were before and now without a hope of supper in sight.  The victor, he himself weak and bleeding, was left to enjoy his bitter-won victory until the next battle comes his way.

Sound familiar?

It is also an all too common experience in the life of man.

We are constantly confronted with our drives to achieve material goals that are equally coveted by so many others – fame, fortune, success.  The more distant and ephemeral, the more we strive to acquire them. The easier they are to attain, the less desirable they become.

The Talmud makes a very bold statement - “No man ever leaves this world with half of his desires fulfilled. If he has one hundred (dollars), he wants two hundred. If he has two hundred, he wants four.”

Seems like the Talmud is making a slight mathematical error on its way to teaching us an important lesson.  If I have one hundred and want two hundred, then I am halfway there.  Same thing with two hundred and four hundred.  Sounds like 50% to me!

The commentaries very aptly point out a fundamental truth about human nature. The one hundred I DON’T have is worth a lot more to me than the one hundred I DO have.  The more I seek, the more I desire.  Almost exponentially.

There can be only one Gold Medalist in the Hundred Yard Dash.  One person wins, the rest of the pack loses.  Instead of running through life trying to grab the prizes for ourselves, by helping others to achieve their goals, we all become victors in a much more serene game of life.

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Comments icon February 23, 2011


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