Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

1% Inspiration, 99% Perspiration

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

SHEMAIAH USED TO SAY: LOVE WORK, HATE ACTING THE SUPERIOR, AND DO NOT BRING THYSELF TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE RULING AUTHORITY. (Avot 1:10)

In the wonderful book The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell suggests there are a variety of people who form the social glue that keeps our world progressing forward. He calls these people connectors. These are people who are able to bring people together to accomplish a task. They are the ones who remember that “x” person has a specific skill that “y” person really needs and he is able to put the two together.

Getting the right person for the right job is a key component for success. But our Mishna offers a couple other suggestions as well. The modern equivalent of “love work”, is as some say success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. While the today’s version of “hate acting superior”, might be to suggest the most successful people are those who give credit where credit is due.

No matter the cliché we apply, success comes from the confluence of a number of factors and probably cannot be reduced to three simple steps. Each of us must plot our own course in life and achieve success by metrics we hold to be valuable and sacred. But know, that no matter how you define achievement, it will take work, attention and patience.

  

Life is too Serious

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Tuesday, November 21, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

"And it was when his days extended there: and Abimelek, king of the Philistines, gazed through the window, and he saw: and here was Isaac “fooling around” with Rebecca his wife!" (Genesis 26:8)

26:8. fooling around. Hebrew , a pun on the name Isaac. (Friedman, Richard Elliott. Commentary on the Torah)

Life is so serious.  People we love pass away.  Relationships fall apart.  Friends get sick.  Careers turn. Politics gets us down. Wars abound. People are displaced and starving.  There are days we want to pull the covers over our heads and shut the world out. The news is depressing.  Our Facebook feed no longer provides the relief it once did.  There is no real drive to go out because the traffic is unbearable. It's getting dark so early not just because the sun sets early but because it seems as though the world is just a little more bleak.

In this week's reading, things look pretty bad for Isaac and Rebecca.  They have been forced to leave their home and separate from each other. The stresses in their life abound.  However, they are able to sneak away and laugh a little.  It seems to make life a little more tolerable. 

I know I have been labeled "a funny rabbi."  People often joke I should have become a comedian or at least an opening act for events here at the shul.  Well, if it brings a little relief, I am pleased to do my part.

 

  

Presumption of Innocence

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

One last comment about Friendship...

 

JUDAH B. TABBAI SAID: DO THOU NOT [AS-A JUDGE] PLAY THE PART OF AN ADVOCATE; WHILST THEY [I. E. THE PARTIES IN A LAWSUIT] ARE STANDING BEFORE THEE, LET THEM BE REGARDED BY THEE AS IF THEY WERE [BOTH OF THEM] GUILTY, AND WHEN THEY LEAVE THY PRESENCE, [AFTER] HAVING SUBMITTED TO THE JUDGMENT LET THEM BE REGARDED BY THEE AS IF THEY WERE [BOTH OF THEM] GUILTLESS.

In American law there is a presumption of innocence.  We ought to give people the benefit of the doubt.  The problem is there are so many factors that sway us in one direction or another. There are specialists who prepare people for trial, helping the individual to select the appropriate clothing, the best posture, even facial expressions all in an attempt to influence a jury to rule in their favor.  We know there are many factors that go into how we judge others.

That is where this Mishna is particularly powerful.  We instinctively, sometimes for self-preservation, sometimes merely out of habit,  judge others.  This Mishna teaches us to be mindful of that inclination and then compensate for it.   Be scrupulous in deciding on whether or not a person is telling you the truth, but then make sure, if it is at all possible, to believe them. 

Human interaction is filled with moments of judging.  In those moments we must always find a balance.  We must regularly hold our skepticism in check with our optimism about the human spirit.