My father had a little brown kiwi bird that sat inconspicuously on his desk. It was made of blown glass, a gift from a client. That kiwi always fascinated me, and I remember staring at it when I came to visit my father in his office. It was too fragile for a little boy to touch, but I remember feeling very clearly that that little brown kiwi would be important to my future. It spoke to me, somehow.
I never forgot that kiwi bird. When I met Haim, I finally understood what it had been telling me. Soon after, my father gave the kiwi to me.
I don’t believe in destiny, that the outcomes of our lives are pre-determined, but I do believe that each person has a highest potential. The ancient Greeks called this ultimate version of the self “entelechy.” Entelechy calls to us, summoning us to become our very best, most complete, most fully realized. Over the course of our lives, we will sometimes make the choices that bring us towards entelechy, and sometimes not. I can’t help seeing that little glass kiwi bird as a sign from my entelechy to be sure I didn’t let the right thing for me get away.
And now I’ve made the big move and live in New Zealand. It took a few months for my boxes to arrive, and a few more weeks to unpack them. Box after box, I looked for that little bird, eager to see him again and to welcome him home. He was nowhere to be found. After the last box was emptied and every other item accounted for, I realized that he must have been too light to be noticed, overlooked in his nest of brown paper wrappings. I imagined him smashed to bits, just when the promise he had offered me so many years ago was being fulfilled. Despairing of finding him, I went to the garage and reviewed each piece of paper. Nine boxes later I discovered him, intact, a tiny brown bundle tucked into a tiny brown bundle.
When we speak of the Jewish people as a light unto the nations, as a bringer of justice to the world, this is our collective entelechy—our highest aspiration, who we as a people are at our very finest. Our Torah, our prayers, our tzedakah boxes, all of these remind us of our mission. The individual choices we as Jews make bring us closer or further from fulfilling it.
What is your entelechy? Who would you be if you reached your highest potential? What would you think about, how would you live? What do you have in your life that reminds you of your very best, that encourages you to make the right choices for yourself?
On his desk, my father had a little brown kiwi bird made of blown glass. It sits on my desk now, returned to its native habitat. I invite you to come to my office some time to visit it. Maybe we’ll talk about ourselves and our choices, maybe we’ll talk about Judaism, or maybe we’ll talk about something else altogether. The kiwi may help you remember, as it does me, that possibilities, even fragile ones, can come true.