You know how when you first meet someone, you engage in small talk. Where do you live? Where’d you go to school? What do you do for a living? Well I seem to get through the first two questions with no problem, but when I tell people who do not know me what I do, it never fails to throw them a bit. You’re a Temple Educator? You must mean a teacher. A principal, really? It’s kind of amusing.
We all have our own assumptions about what other people should be like and how they should lead their lives. It helps us categorize and make sense of our complex world. And yet, we find time and time again that people don’t fit neatly into the categories we create.
I’m reminded of a Hasidic Tale. Rabbi Zusya teaches, a short while before his death, “In the world to come I shall not be asked, Why were you not Moses? I shall be asked, Why were you not Zusya?” In other words, we need not compare ourselves to others. We need not try to live up to external expectations. We need not be a Moses. An Abraham. A Miriam. A Sarah. Rather, we need to look inside ourselves and ask some serious questions. Who am I meant to be? What gifts do I have to share with the world that only I can give? How can I maximize my God-given potential?
So here’s what I have come to learn. It really doesn't matter what other people are doing. In some ways that is reassuring. But the harder, more challenging lesson for each and every one of us is to look inside ourselves and find what we are meant to do in life. What is it that only we can offer the world around us in our own special way?
As we come to the end of another school year, I feel blessed to be here at B’nai Shalom educating our children and youth. I am doing what I am meant to be doing. And so, when people seem surprised at what I do, I smile to myself and think about the wisdom of Zusya and hope that that they too will be fortunate enough to find their uniquely special place in the world.