Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | June 20, 2018

Find Your Calling

One day at shul, a friend’s pager went off.  He quickly darted out the door.  Knowing that he’s a doctor, I mused that when he gets a message it is important because it’s from a hospital and someone’s life is at stake, as opposed to me getting a text at the office from my wife because she needs me to pick up eggs on the way home from work.

But then I stopped myself, as I am wont to do, and realized that that assumption simply wasn’t true.  Yes, his calls are very important, but who says mine aren’t important too?  If I have the opportunity to do a chesed for another Jew, shouldn’t I jump at it?  And if that person happens to be my wife, who HaShem wants me to be closer to than to anyone else on the planet, isn’t that an earth-shaking responsibility?

Sometimes we get a call or a message and it’s someone asking a favor, or just a piece of information.  Even if the person is a nudge or nudnik with a silly question, the fact that it’s we who got the call means it’s our job to answer it.  By doing so, we’re fulfilling our role on earth.


Which brings me to another point:  I recently had the pleasure of meeting a Rebbi from a local Yeshiva, R’ Yonah L.  Aside from telling me he enjoys reading my articles, already showing that he’s a man of great intellect and discerning taste, he shared with me a great play on words which I have to pass along.

We talked about how each person has certain abilities and talents and that they have an obligation to use them to serve HaShem and Mankind as best they can.  He said, “You must respond to your abilities. That’s why it’s called “responsibility.”

While you may not be a brain surgeon, you have something special about you that the world needs and that’s YOUR calling.  You have been imbued by the Creator with special skills, insights, strengths, or emotions that nobody else in the world can replace.  We each have a role to play and by doing so we are sustaining the world and Creation, making what we do every day a matter of life and death.

There’s an old proverbial rhyme which many of us have heard:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

It implies that little failures can lead to big losses, but I look at it a different way (as I do most things.)  To me, it seems that no matter whether you’re the nail in the horseshoe, the rider, or the king, you play an important role in what happens to the rest of the kingdom.

So, it may not be the hospital or the President of the United States on the other end of the line, but when I respond to the things that need MY attention, I’m heeding the call and playing my part in the world.

Sometimes we feel we’re nobodies, that we’re insignificant.  When we look at it the way I’m suggesting, we realize that such a thing is impossible.  We can all make a huge difference, even if we don’t realize it at the time.  Let’s go back to the poem.  It says that because of a nail, the shoe was lost.

Let’s say the farrier (that’s what you call the guy who shoes horses) was having a bad day.  He burned himself on the anvil and he couldn’t find any lotion to soothe the burn.  In his pain, he dropped the horseshoe nails on the floor and when he bent down to get them, he banged his head.  Could this day get any worse?  Then he realizes that one nail rolled across the floor and he can’t see where it went.  “Forget it!  This horse is just going to get one less nail in his shoe.  It should be fine without it and next time I’ll bring extras.  I don’t have the strength or patience to deal with this right now.”

Now, in his mind, it doesn’t make such a difference.  In reality though, the entire war hangs in the balance of his decision, and we who know the poem can already predict the outcome.

What just happened was that he missed his calling.  His job was to be the best farrier possible, and to do quality work.  Because he chose to blow off that responsibility, the repercussions could be huge.

We don’t necessarily have pages and text messages to alert us when an opportunity to make a difference comes along.  Sometimes it’s just something we “happen” to notice, or an offhanded comment that gets thrown our way.  Sometimes it’s an exasperating request when we’re already stressed and overloaded.  We can easily see these things as unimportant, or figure that they can be handled by someone else.

The challenge though, is to take “response-ability” and ask ourselves if this might be a direct call over a dedicated line, just waiting for us to get the message.


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