Who are you and what are you doing here?

Many centuries ago in the land of Israel, one of the early rabbis was returning home from a long day in the House of Study. It was later than usual, and as he walked home, the sun set. Lost deep in thought, he took the left fork instead of the right when the path split. Instead of nearing home, he ended up by a Roman outpost.

“Who goes there?” boomed a deep voice in the dark, shaking him from his thoughts. Confused, the rabbi tried to figure out who this was at his home.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” the voice called again as the Roman centurion now stepped into view.

The rabbi quickly realized the mistake that he must have made. Instead of answering the centurion’s questions, he replied, “How much are you paid to stand here every day?”

“Three drachma,” replied the centurion.

“I see,” said the rabbi. “I will pay you twice as much to stand in front of my door and ask me the same questions every single day.”

Though the centurion remained at his post, the rabbi often told this story to his students. He reminded them that though we spend much time trying to come up with the right answers, we don’t spend hardly enough time coming up with the right questions.

Who are you, and what are you doing here? Probably the two most significant questions one can wrestle with in life. Who are you, really? And what are you doing here? What is your true purpose in life?

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