‘Why Were You Not Zusia?’

From the diaries of Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, a reflection on the beauty of stepping outside proscribed lines and being fully oneself.

The crowd naturally exercises a gravitational pull on the individual mind that is hard to resist. What can seem more important than being adjusted, keeping in step, falling in line? What is more difficult than being considered peculiar, freakish, unaccountable? Or having one’s detachment misjudged as coldness, snobbishness or unfriendliness? … The well-known Hasidic tale about what Zusia will be asked when he appears for the final judgment [ed. note: He will be asked, “Why were you not Zusia?”] points to this ideal of being fully oneself. [i] (Aug. 8, 1956, Kaplan diary)

(edited by Mel Scult)

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