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When I was in yeshiva I learned that the Jews only accepted the Torah when "God held the mountain over their (our) heads." Meaning that we were forced.
At the time the Jews said, "Naaseh Venishma," Hebrew for "We will do and we will listen."(Which is sort of a clue - normally you would listen first and then act, but here there is action seemingly without even knowing what one is doing.)
I asked the teacher, "If we were forced to accept the Torah when what does it mean that we agreed to accept it? There was a mountain over our heads!"
If someone has no choice, then their choice is no choice at all.
Did a little research and found an interesting response by rabbi/computer engineer Mois Navon.
Basically Navon says that the Jews had already accepted God's authority on their own - it was the Torah part they weren't so sure about.
Navon says that just like children have to be forced to do what's right until they are ready on their own, God initiated the Jews into Torah law without their consent. Only many years later, when they did voluntarily accept it (in 432 BCE), were they "accountable" for keeping its laws.
At that time, now a holiday which Jews call Purim, the nation eluded a mandate by the Persian King Ahashverosh (goaded by his adviser Haman) to exterminate them. They did so through acting on their own behalf in the political realm, and fasting and praying to God in the spiritual one.
The timing of the true acceptance of Torah is no mistake, says Navon - it occurred only after the Jews had to take responsibility for their own fate, and not rely on direct interception by God.
He argues that the exercise of free will - a fundamental tenet of the Jewish faith as well as a basic American value - is a thing that can only responsibly be exercised once a person has been forced, like a child, to accept basic "moral values."
We don't let 3-year-olds run into the street; we don't let 12-year-olds get married; we don't let people vote till they turn 18.
There is a similar principle at work when it comes to your personal brand, which is really your identity. You start out with someone telling you who you are, you obey, and then you get to decide later on.
I obeyed till I was about 8, and then the process of change began. One of mine involves the '80s, neon, and a seemingly endless series of perms.
After that was college, and...well there are so many years of phases, aren't they? How do you know when you've arrived at "you," a brand you can be accountable for, rather than one that was forced on you?
Here's the way I look at it. It's a little bit different than Navon.
There is a time in one's life when identity and values have to be foisted on you. This is part of normal development. But the point of this is not for you to accept what others say. Rather it is for you to have a model to start out with. One that you can modify, adapt, mash up and mix around on your own.
In other words, you start out with somebody else's brand so that you know what a brand is. And when you grow up, you get to create your own.
I don't agree that maturity means you finally accept whatever has been dictated. Or that it only comes to you through an experience of hellish adversity. Or even that you snap into it all at once, or that your identity is ever "final."
Instead I think your brand is a gradual thing that evolves over time, that you find and settle into, through a process of questioning and experience and yes, even going through phases you would rather not think about later on. It's about exploring and recognizing that the journey never ends.
So when are you ready to brand? I guess when you realize that there is never going to be an end to the branding - you'll start out as version 1.0 and just keep chugging along.
Here's what I believe: Trust in yourself, and look to the One Above to guide you.
Have a good day everyone, and good luck!
Photo by Eddie Van 3000 Via Flickr