If I am not for myself, who is for me?
When I am for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?
Discussion Guide [1:14].
Hillel’s question ‘What am I?” has us inquire into what our duty is in our different
roles. Confucius said, in a related idea, that the key to a good society was that ‘the father be
a father, the son a son, the ruler, a ruler,’ meaning that each person should fulfill his duty
honestly and competently.
What are your roles, and your duties in them?
For example, if you are a youth, what do you owe to your parents?
If you are a parent, what do you owe to your child?
To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and
a time to die; ...a time to kill, and time to heal; ...a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time
to mourn, and a time to dance; ...a time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing; ...a time
to keep silence, a time to speak; a time to love, a time to hate; a time for war, and a time
for peace.—Eccl. 3:1-3:8
Hillel’s last question asks: What time is it for me now?
What should I do in this stage of my life?
How should I prepare for the next stage?
Hillel’s three questions are deep, with many levels of meaning.
What is your own interpretation of Hillel’s questions?