I learned to listen to Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the Shoah and famed psychologist, who believed that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs wasn’t quite right.
Maslow claimed that our most basic human needs are food, air, water, shelter and warmth. However, Frankl’s life experience, especially in the Shoah, proved that that is not always the case. Frankl had little to none of those most basic physiological needs. Instead, Frankl said that a human being’s most basic need is to create meaning; without meaning, there is no life. Certainly, no experience can equal the extreme horrors of the Shoah, but we can learn from Frankl’s experience about what truly matters in our own difficult times: creating work, shared experiences with other humans, and the mindset we take toward suffering.
Just after Rosh HaShanah 5780, I thought I was attuned to my gratitude for my friends, family and greater community; however, after six months into the global pandemic, I now realize how much I rely on the work I do, the people I meet and my mental health to persevere. Yes, we need food, air, water, and warmth to feed our bodies, but no amount of any of those needs will nourish my heart, mind or soul.
Entering into the new year I am savoring each day that I am able to serve the Jewish people, digitally connect with friends and family, and find new meaning and purpose in each day.
May 5781 be a meaningful and fulfilling year, a year abounding with ahava and shalom, love and peace, and a year made complete by the purpose to serve one another in joy.
Rabbi Max Miller is an associate rabbi at Temple Emanu-El.