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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Are you maximizing your impact?


Moed Katan 9

Personally I believe that rabbis are extremely well-positioned for political influence.  And it’s important that our voices are heard when it comes to both domestic and foreign policy. 

But not all my colleagues agree.  I have one friend, Reb Shloime, who refuses to have anything to do with politics.  He contends that, as a man of G-d, his job is to teach Torah and pastor to the flock.  Any other activities are a distraction from his sacred task and should be left to others to take care of.  Because only he possesses the skills and expertise to best excel at his primary task.

King Solomon writes in Proverbs, “Weigh the path of your feet and all your journeys will be directed.”
Rashi explains:  When faced with two mitzvos, weigh them up and calculate which is greater in order to perform the greater one.

Solomon further writes, “Lest you weigh the path of life.”
Rashi explains: This verse implies that you should perform every mitzvah that comes your way, great or small, and do not forsake the small for the big!

Rabbi Jonathan ben Asmay and Rabbi Judah ben Gerim resolve the apparent contradiction: The former refers to a mitzvah that may be performed by others.  In that case, you may choose the greater mitzvah and your fellow can perform the smaller one.  The latter refers to a mitzvah for which there is no other to perform it.  In that case you must do the mitzvah, whether great or small.

It is impossible to do everything in life.  Every time you choose to do something, you are at the same time choosing not to do other things.   If you choose to study architecture at university, then you are simultaneously choosing not to study law or engineering.  Every decision is a choice in favour of one thing over the competing options.

The goal of life is to figure out how you can maximize your potential on earth.  Every positive decision you make will have a positive impact.  Hopefully those are the choices that you are already making.  But that’s not the ultimate.  The ultimate is to ask yourself whether you are accomplishing the maximum possible positive impact with the choices you are making.

And so King Solomon’s advice is to constantly ask yourself two questions.  The first is, ‘Could anyone else do what I am doing?’  If the answer is no, then you must take care of it, no matter how trivial it may feel.  If the answer is yes, then you need to ask yourself the second question, ‘What else could I be doing in this world that might be a better use of my talents, skills and expertise?’

The answer to these two questions is not static.  It will change throughout your life, just as you change and the circumstances around you change.  As you grow, your environment must grow.  As you thrive, so should those you are impacting.  If not, you must ask yourself why not?

Our time on this earth is short.  You need to maximize every day, every hour, every minute.  The way to accomplish your mission is to constantly check in with yourself and determine that you are achieving the most ideal, effective life of positive influence that you possibly could. 


The world needs you – make sure you are maximizing your potential today!