When I was a child, I begged my father to take me to a baseball game. I nagged and badgered like only a little kid can do. He has absolutely no interest in baseball. Zilch. He probably dreaded the idea of spending four boring hours at Shea stadium.
But he took me anyway.
In retrospect, others in the stands probably thought my father was an interested fan; but I know he wasn’t. He was there for one – and only one - reason: To make me happy. Tom Seaver was but a conduit to my father’s end game: Deepening his relationship with his young son.
Appearances can be deceiving; and sometimes that’s a good thing.
Sure, ‘deceptive’ is a negative word; ‘misleading’ doesn’t sound kosher either. But how do you describe an exercise which appears to be self-indulgent, but is actually being pursued for a higher purpose?
Deceptively meaningful? Meaningfully deceptive?
Here’s a more common example: You see someone eating a tantalizing meal, and assume it’s in the pursuit of self-gratification. What if she simply wants to be healthy so that she can actualize her purpose by leading a meaningful life? What of someone who works in business because he wants to honorably serve his customers? Because he wants to generously support his community through the money he earns?
These individuals may look like they’re serving themselves, but their high-minded intent makes them other-centered and G-d-centered.
This is actually the stuff of life: Pursuing exercises which have a meaningful essence, even though they look shallow on the outside.
We’re created as angels, and we’re not supposed to be sitting in prayer all day. Our purpose includes engaging the material world, whether it’s on Main Street or Wall Street. We need to pursue human endeavors; the trick – nay, the soul – lies in the intent of our pursuit. Are we conscious of our Higher Purpose? Do we guide ourselves by a Higher Code? If the answer is yes, then the pursuit– notwithstanding its appearance – is very much Divine.
As a people, we are known by the name of our Patriarch ‘Yaakov’ (Jacob). Linguistically, the word Yaakov connotes ‘deceptiveness’. Not pretty, on its face.
But in light of the above, it’s actually deceptively beautiful. Yaakov is a name that shouts our mission and calls us to action: Engage the world, but – while you’re doing so – don’t lose sight of life’s Higher Purpose.