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Monday, 18 May 2015

What do you do?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 105
A New York lawyer once came to meet the the Brisker Rov, Rabbi Velvel Soloveichik. 
In the course of their conversation, Rabbi Soloveichik asked him, “What are you?”
The man replied, “I’m a New York City lawyer.” 
The discussion continued and a few minutes later, the rabbi inquired once again, “What are you?”
The man looked at the rabbi funny and replied, “Rebbe, I’m a criminal lawyer in Manhattan.”

“Let me tell you about the prophet Jonah,” said the Brisker Rov. “As his ship was about to capsize in the tumultuous storm, the sailors asked him, ‘What is your business?’  Jonah replied, ‘I am a Hebrew and I fear Hashem, the G-d of Heaven, who made the ocean and the dry land.’  Listen to the words of the prophet!  When they asked him what he did, he replied who he was: first and foremost, a Yid.  When I asked you what you are, you told me what you do!  You may work as a lawyer; that is true.  But what are you?  You are a Yid!”  (Rabbi Paysach Krohn in the name of Rav Frand)

The Torah declares, “You shall not take a bribe!”
The Rabbis taught: Not only may one not take a monetary bribe, but the fact that it does not state, ‘You shall not take money,’ means that one may not even take a bribe of ‘matters.’

What is the meaning of a bribe of ‘matters’?  It is like the story of Shmuel who was crossing a bridge.  A fellow came along and gave him a hand. 
Shmuel said to him, “What is your business?
The fellow replied, “I’m here for a court-case.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t serve as a judge for your case,” said Shmuel, “for I have become invalidated by your act of kindness towards me.”

A few months after Rav Frand told the story of the lawyer, he received a letter from a businessman in New York.  He wanted Rav Frand to know about the new paperweight he kept on his desk, upon which were inscribed the words, “I am a Hebrew.”
“Whenever I get so caught up in my business affairs that I feel they are taking over my life,” wrote the man, “I now look at my Jonah-inspired paperweight and remind myself who I really am.  Thank you, Rav Frand.”

How do you define yourself?  What question are you answering when people ask you ‘What is your business?’ Do you answer what your job is?  Or do you answer who you are?  Do you answer what you do for a living?  Or do you answer what you live for?

You are a Hebrew, a Yid, a holy Jew!  You have been placed on this earth to serve the Almighty and make this world a holy abode for Him.  Whatever your day-job is, it’s only a vehicle to put bread on the table and have the physical fuel to fulfill your spiritual mission! 

Who are you?  What is your business here in this world?  May you merit never getting so caught up in the daily grind that you forget your ultimate occupation – serving the Almighty and spiritually refining this world!