Today you are you. That is truer than true.

There is no one alive that is youer than you.

Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You


Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, one of the great sages of the last century, made a remarkable statement: “I, with all my abilities, potentials, and talents, both physical and spiritual, am unique in the universe. Amongst all those alive today, there is no other me. In past generations, too, there

was no other me, and until the end of time there will be no other me.” This uniqueness is not an accident, the random outcome of genetic variation. Rabbi Wolbe continues, “And if so, the Master of the Universe must certainly have sent me here on a special mission that could be

fulfilled by no one else but me — with all my uniqueness.” [1]

To be true to myself, I cannot be the way I am because of what someone else does. Nor can I determine my self-worth by comparing myself to others. The great Chassidic master, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, stated, “If I am I because I am I and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you. But if I am I because you are you and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you.”

The point is that I must actualize my own G-d-given potential and not to try and become someone else. Only then can I live authentically and with the appropriate human dignity. There will only ever be one Abraham and one Moses. This is because there is only one of each of us. Hence, I am not meant to become Abraham or Moses. I am meant to become … me! [2]


If all of my distinct aspects enable me to do what no one else can, I have to embrace my uniqueness. I have to own it. I have to dig deep to know what motivates me. Am I just trying to fit in because of my intense need to be accepted? Or worse, do I follow the crowd because

I am worried of being laughed at for my differences? The vision of ourselves lies not in the society beyond but within the deepest recesses of our souls.

Our deep desire to be accepted by others takes on many guises and can even pose as a way of being unique. Take the infiltration of jeans into the former Soviet Union. Symbolizing the freedom of the Western world, jeans became a hot black-market item in Communist countries,

as they represented the rebellious. [3] Yet, in the name of that rebellion, everyone became the same. They all wanted to wear jeans. Many Soviet youths made their wardrobe choices thinking that they were being individuals, going against the grain of society, but in truth they were just

following the crowd.

[1] Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, Alei Shur, Vol. 1, p. 68.

[2] Based on the Vilna Gaon.

[3] See Niall Ferguson, Civilization, pp. 240–250. On p. 249, he discusses why jeans were such a threat to the Soviet system.

Continue reading Who Am I?

Read the previous essay, Journey and Destination.  

Purchase a copy of The Human Challenge.

Rabbi Avraham Edelstein serves as the Education Director of Neve Yerushalayim College for Women and a senior advisor to Olami. Many of Rabbi Edelstein’s foundational publications addressing the world of Kiruv appear on OlamiResources.com.

Olami Resources is happy to present a series of free installments featuring Rabbi Avraham Edelstein’s important new book, The Human Challenge. This week we are sharing the fourth essay from Section One – A Purposeful Life – entitled, Who Am I?

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