Off the Pulpit

Did You Build That?

We all struggle between the impulse to assume we are self-made and that we are indebted to others. Both of course are true: without effort and hard work it is impossible to accomplish much in this world. Yet without all the structures, that existed before we came into this world, societal and environmental, we could have done nothing. To believe you are self-made is an act of blithe arrogance; yet to believe you do not deserve credit for your accomplishments is to blunt the motivation that moves society forward.
Judaism’s answer is gratitude coupled with responsibility – we are grateful for the gifts we have been given and responsible to use them for the good of the world. If you have a brain that works you did not ‘earn’ that brain, it was a gift. To be arrogant about natural gifts is foolish. If you have chosen to use it for the benefit of human beings however, you have every right to be proud of that choice. God gives the artist the gift; the artist gives us art. 
The proper answer to, “Did you build/create/make that?” is, “Yes, I did. But I had help.”