Today was one of the great days in my work life. There was nothing particularly profound about it, but when I think about the reasons I felt called to do the work that I do, today pretty much hit all of them.

This morning I did a Q&A via webcam with a class at Duke University, taught by a recently-acquired friend, Prof. Alma Blount. The class is part of the Hart Leadership Program at Duke, and the 25 students are critically and self-reflectively examining the topic of “boundary crossing”. For this week they read Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s To Heal a Fractured World, and Alma asked if I would talk with the class about the book and the ideas in it. I was totally in my element, talking about everything from Gaza to theology to religion and secularism in higher education in society. Great teaching moments involve a great text and speaking from the heart, and here I experienced both. And that was all before 10:30.

I then met with our Director of Engagement, Andrea Jacobs, for our weekly Torah study session. We have been closely reading Genesis 1 with Rashi’s commentary. As we sat in Linz & Vail coffee shop and talked about the tiny but powerful grammatical issues that Rashi spins into profound ideas about humanity and our place in the universe, I again felt an alignment between what the world–and Andrea–needed from me, and what I felt most powerful doing.

I next met with a professor, Elie Rekhess, to talk about how to improve Israel education on campus–from both a curricular and co-curricular perspective. Elie is a mature scholar and a doer, someone who understands that the education at a university does not end, or perhaps even primarily happen, inside the classroom. We agreed to start a little think tank to do some strategic planning.

Next I met with Samantha Rollins, a student who went on Birthright this winter and wrote about it in the student magazine North by Northwestern. This might have been my best first meeting with a student. It lasted 25 minutes. I got her details and then, possessed by something, I wasted no time getting to the Big Questions: “Samantha, what good do you do in the world?” and then “Where do you feel at home?” And finally, after those two, I ended by asking her “Samantha, what are you going to do right now to do good?” She decided to call her sister and say hello.

Finally, right after that meeting, I met with a student leader going through a crisis of confidence and direction. She had just bombed an Econ midterm, and she knew it. She also knew that she wasn’t making enough time for herself, to find quiet spaces, to nurture her soul. So I asked questions to help her identify the choices she had before her and what she might have to say no to in order to say yes to herself. And, most important, I recognized her. I said something like, “At the end of your life, no one is going to remember your Econ midterm. But they will remember the fact that you are a tremendous ba’alat chesed, a loving and kind person, who always has as hug and a smile and says hello. They will remember that you helped transform Hillel into a welcoming and caring place. And they will remember that when they think of the beautiful people in their life, they think of you.”

I entered the rabbinate because I wanted to be able to help people find meaning in their lives through commitment to Torah study and observance. I wanted to do good in the world. And I was called to work on a campus because I could help young adults find the language and concepts to do good in the world by living their lives in dialogue with the story of the Jewish people. Today was not unique–I have many days like this, days where I combine formal teaching with coaching and mentoring. But today was one where I profoundly sensed that I was doing God’s work. I feel blessed for the opportunity, and grateful for the people for whom I can make a difference.

Everyone should have a day like this.

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