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Rabbi's Week in Review - 3/27/2023

03/27/2023 04:47:57 PM


I had a number of individual meetings, what I refer to as one-on-ones, last week. These meetings could all be characterized as work meetings — meetings with people whom I work with as rabbi in one way or another.

Yet our conversations were not limited to business concerns. In one meeting in particular, we never even got around to discussing business. We spent our time getting to know each other personally, and sharing how the trajectory of our lived experiences has led us to do the work we do.

There is a story in Talmud (Talmud Bavli, Tractate Berachot 28a) in which Rabban Gamaliel II visits the home of Rabbi Yehoshua. Rabban Gamaliel, in wrongly disagreeing with Rabbi Yehoshua and causing him embarrassment in the process, goes to Rabbi Yehoshua to apologize.

When Rabban Gamaliel arrives at R. Yehoshua’s home, he notices that the walls of the house are black and he says it is apparent that R. Yehoshua is a blacksmith — something Rabban Gamaliel had not previously taken the time to notice. R. Yehoshua responds, “Woe unto the generation whose leaders you are, for you know not the suffering of the Torah scholars, how they support themselves and how they are nourished.” Beyond engaging R. Yehoshua over issues of Halakhah, Rabban Gamaliel had never taken the time to get to know R. Yehoshua.

We are prone to dividing our relationships into the professional and the personal. We cheat others and ourselves out of the opportunity for meaningful relationships by assuming that what we do in our professional lives can somehow not impact our personal lives and vice versa. 

Our Talmud, a foundational source of Jewish law, is replete with stories such as that of Rabban Gamaliel and R. Yehoshua. Our Talmudic sages, like R. Yehoshua, knew that we do not leave our personal lives at the door when we head off to work. We bring our personal lives and experiences into the workplace to give meaning and purpose to our work. And the dignity that comes with work, in addition to putting food on the table and a roof over our heads, impacts our relationships at home.

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784