Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:
I've just returned to camp from yet another weekend "on the road," showing the
camp slide show, talking to interested parents and kids about our program, and
in general doing whatever it is that I do when I visit one of our communities.
This weekend I had the opportunity to spend some time with a young rabbi. We
spoke, at length, of the rabbinate, his career, and many other things. During
the conversation he made a statement which startled me. He said something to
this affect ,"I've decided that it is no longer important to me to be the
greatest rabbi in the world." He went on to explain that he was not motivated
to do what many of his classmates were doing. Some of his contemporaries feel
that it is very important to move on to very large and prestigious
congregations, earn very large salaries, and become that rabbi-on-a-pedistal we
have all met. What my young friend was telling me was that this is the way
many rabbis measure their success.
But let's not just point our fingers at our rabbis (most of the rabbis who fit
the above description work incredibly hard and are very dedicated. Otherwise
they wouldn't be able to handle the tremendous demands of a large
congregation). How do we measure success in our own lives? How many of us
believe that success is in direct proportion to the size of one's salary.
Look, I'm a realistic person. I know that material things are important to us
all. I want to drive a nice car, have a VCR, etc. But what if I don't? Does
that mean that I am a failure? And what about you? Is your measure of success
a 4.0 GPA, the most prestigious sorority or fraternity, the coolest boy or
girlfriend? What will it take in your life to make you feel like you've "made
The conversation I had with my young rabbi friend was ironic, because he is a
very successful rabbi. He, in particular, has a tremendous effect on all those
who come in contact with him. He is making a difference, helping people,
teaching, and leading. Sometimes we need to listen to our own hearts, and pay
less attention to external pressures. Perhaps the real measure of success lies
in how we strive to make this world a better place, how we help those around
us, and how true we are to ourselves. Maybe the measure of success is in how
hard we try, rather than how high we climb. Its something to think about.