In EmunahSpeak: So Say Something Already!, we spoke of wants versus needs vis á vis tefillah in the context of having, as in Tatte, I have a need! That’s enough in itself, we said over there because your need requires a response.
And we ended with: your desires (wants) are another story.
But wants and needs can also be juxtaposed in relation to doing, as in those who want/wish to do or, more accurately, those who want/wish that something be done as opposed to those who need to do.
In Parshas Shemos, when Pharaoh’s daughter, Batya, saw Moshe in the basket floating upon the water, Rashi quotes the Medrash to say that Batya’s hand extended a great distance to retrieve Moshe from the water. Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein tells us that we learn from this Rashi that it’s your job to put your hand out even if it doesn’t reach, and keep it there until it does because if you really need something, if you have a burning need to do (accomplish), your hand can stretch to make it happen.
If you merely want it, have a nice day.
Wanting is passive and, as such, it’s not wired for tachlis. If it so happens that that which was wanted actually comes to be, the fruition of that want was not in response to it. A need, by contrast, is proactive and, by virtue of its fiery nature, it can (and usually does) clear a path for itself.
Or put another way, the player that wants his team to win gives encouragement to his teammates and roots them on, whereas the player with the need to win puts the ball in the basket.
This dichotomy between a needs determination and a wants resignation impacts on practically everything we touch. And for those, whose comprehension of this dichotomy allows them to taste its true significance, it’s a life changer that will reveal to them where they’re standing in this world.
You want to do the right thing, as do we all, so every Elul you dutifully jot down all the areas in which you wish to improve in the coming year. But do you find your present madreiga so insufferable that you need to do the right thing so that the possibility of second, third, and fourth best no longer exists for you? If you did, you would be tenacious in pursuit of that goal and you wouldn’t compromise it for anything. For the sake of that need you would go inside yourself to know how to satisfy it, and you wouldn’t stop until you achieved your purpose.
And who doesn’t want that there should be achdus amongst Yidden? But how many feel the need for it? How many of us are driven by such a burning need for achdus that we are willing step out of our comfort zone to make it happen? And how many of us are so tortured by this need that we would be willing to compromise on anything that didn’t contravene Halacha?
And so it goes for almost any situation. Most of us want to learn. How many need to? Do you want to help others or do you need to help others? Would you like (want) to connect Hashem or do you need to connect to Hashem?
If you go through life merely wanting to do, nothing will ever get done. But if, with a soul on fire, you take that journey needing to do, nothing will ever get in your way.
In light of this, Rabbi Wallerstein suggests that the reason Moshiach is not here is because we want Moshiach now as opposed to we need Moshiach now. In its terminal passivity, the wanting of Moshiach in and of itself will do nothing to bring the Geula. If he comes, he comes. If not, we’ll keep on wanting until he does, whereas the need for Moshiach will inevitably push Klal Yisroel in innumerable directions that will create the conditions to bring the Geula ever so closer, speedily in our days.