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How Do We Define Ourselves?

Friday, 1 March, 2019 - 4:10 pm

Profession.pngIn our society, when we are introduced to new people, the conversation usually goes like this, “What is your name?” and then followed by “What do you do?”

Usually the response is something similar.

My name is …. And I am an Electrician, a Stock Broker, a Realtor, a Developer or an Attorney….

Great… now we have a name and a definition of what the person is about.

However this may be true to a degree, yet at the same time, is this the end all?

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, how are we viewing and defining people and perhaps to the same degree, how do we view and define ourselves?

Does our profession define who we truly are, both in the way we view ourselves and in the way others view us? Or am I perhaps a person who lives with a deeper sense of purpose, and have aspirations, goals, values and morals, and at the same time, the way I earn my living and help better society is through being an Electrician, a Stock Broker, a Realtor, a Developer, an Attorney, or any other job?

In other words, there is the deep inner self which has an altruistic bent, desires only good and reflects my inner essence, and then there is the more external dimension to my life which may also be a very productive and important aspect of who I am, and may consume more of my energy, focus and productivity.

The important question is, which part of our life is dominating my perspective, is my external dimensions of life defining my inner space, or is my inner dimension shaping how I express my more external aspects of life?

In this week’s Torah portion before getting into the instructions for building the Tabernacle for G-d in the desert, there is a short but very powerful conversation that Moses has with the entire Jewish people. In this conversation he talks about their role in transforming the world and he talks about work and productivity and also about observing Shabbos and keeping the seventh day sacred for G-d.

Moses states to the people that “six days, work shall be done” and then goes on to talk about how the seventh day should be a day of complete rest for G-d. In many commentaries especially in Chassidic philosophy, the expression that Moses uses here is picked up on, in that he does not state, “six days, you shall work”, rather he states “six days, work shall be done”. It is a very subtle and nuanced difference of expression, but one that contains a very deep and relevant message for how we view our profession and productivity.

Of course we know that “man was born to toil”, G-d wants us all to be productive in accomplishing, and bringing positive change and improvement to the world around us, through our professions and hard work. At the same time, we need to remember that at our core, there is a deeper side to our lives than our profession, and it is critically important to cultivate and develop that inner core. Thus the verse implies, yes, work should get done, but the deeper you, needs to be reserved and developed in other ways.

Maintaining a healthy inspired and spiritually focused inner you, is not a contradiction to our professional life by any means, in fact it is just the opposite, as a healthy inner core, will have and enriching and empowering moral and meaningful impact on how we go about our professions.

Living in a world which is fast paced and is so demanding in so many areas of our life, can make that kind of focus challenging. Yet if we remember how important and crucial developing our inner core is, it will be a bit of extra hard work, but in turn, it will give us inner peace, confidence, and a mature and healthy perspective to work and productivity.

Shabbat Shalom

Yisroel

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