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Clarifying Our Priorities

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The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
     says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
     Everything is meaningless.”
— Ecclesiastes 1:1–2

To some wives, the fact that their husbands spend hours each week watching grown men run around a court seeing who can throw a ball into a hoop the most times, or who can hit a ball the farthest, might seem completely ridiculous. What a waste of time, many wives think. Instead, that time could be used far more productively, and every woman has a “honey-do” list for such times.

To some men, the fact that many women look at their closets brimming with clothing only to declare that they don’t have anything to wear might seem utterly absurd. That she goes out and buys even more clothing when she has plenty at home seems a huge waste of time and resources. That money could have been contributed to God’s purposes or other worthy causes.

Now, I’m not making any judgment calls here, but I think the point that King Solomon, the wisest of all men, was trying to make in the opening verses of Ecclesiastes, is that these are meaningless pursuits. It’s all absurd and purposeless. But allow me to explain; after all, I once played basketball myself in college!

Solomon was trying to wake up his fellow Israelites — and us — to the true purpose of life. He was crying out for us to get our priorities in order. There are so many things we could do that are eternally significant — studying God’s Word, performing acts of kindness, contributing to God’s purposes, and so forth. The value of these actions never decreases. Their purpose is eternal. And the reward for engaging in them is unimaginable.

In contrast, when we are hyper-focused on the short time that we have on earth, we often mistakenly place far too much emphasis on the material, albeit nice, things of life, but not the most important aspects of living.

The main point is to value the meaningful things and to keep “meaningless” actions and items in their proper place. Sure it’s appropriate at times to enjoy a good game or to buy some beautiful clothing. It’s important to rest and to have fun, too, as long as the ultimate purpose of doing so is to be better able to serve God more energetically and passionately as a result.

“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher . . . “Everything is meaningless.” Yet, we can make those intrinsically meaningless pursuits more significant when we understand their function — to create an environment that inspires us to work harder at those things in life that are more important.

May we always see our priorities clearly, removing those things that are irrelevant and putting first things first, starting with God.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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