Jewish Journal


April 5, 2013

You Can’t Say NO To Sacred Work



By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

I was speaking with one of the other Rabbi's at Beit T'Shuvah yesterday about a resident that he is seeing as a Spiritual Counselor and I suggested that he learn a Mishnah from Pirke Avot as a text with this person. I suggested Chapter 2 Mishnah 16. It goes like this: Rabbi Tarfon used to say, a person is not obligated to finish the work and neither is she/he free to invalidate the work. We started to talk about this and my colleague said that the word used for work here is Malacha, meaning the work involved in creating the Mishkan.

We started to talk about this and what stayed with me and stays with me is that I don't have to be perfect, I can't say NO to the Sacred work I am created to do and I can't invalidate my Holy work nor anyone else's. I also can't expect everyone else to finish their work, I have to help them as I ask for and allow them to help me. What a concept!!

I am continually surprised, amazed and awed at the brilliance of our Tradition to address the issues that confront all humans and have paths to wholeness, peace and serenity. I have to begin to create Holy, Sacred Space inside of me (soul work) and outside of me (helping others and build a place where God can dwell among all of us). What a job, yet, I don't have to do it all. Whew!!

As I look deeper into this teaching, I realize where I fall short. I often invalidate my own Sacred Work by:

  1. comparing the acclaim of others to my own
  2. not thinking what I am doing matters
  3. not believing I matter
  4. not following through on things
  5. distracting myself through doing less important things and/or being lazy.

I invalidate the Sacred Work of others by:

  1. not helping them
  2. not taking enough time to listen to others, their ideas, their souls
  3. impatience
  4. thinking that their thoughts/work is stupid or beneath them and me
  5. distracting myself and making the other feel unimportant
  6. not acting as if another matters
  7. comparing the to me and/or others

I was struck silent and deeply moved by this revelation. I have also committed to improving in this area. I know how and commit to heal my wounds that keep me from believing in myself and my work. I also commit to ask for more help from others rather than try and "go it alone.” I also commit to be more present and helpful with others and validate them more.

In looking at my assets in this area, I also see when I have followed this teaching. Beit T'Shuvah is where it is because of all of the people who have made it a priority in their lives to grow and heal others; to mention all would take up too much room and Harriet Rossetto and the many staff members, past present and future who continually do their work as well as people like Elaine Breslow z"l, Annette Shapiro, Warren Breslow, Nancy Mishkin, Bill Resnick, all of our past honorees, our Board, our volunteers, our residents—past, present and future, etc. These people have helped me and I them. I have asked for and received great guidance from so many Rabbis, teachers and friends and family. I am so grateful for their help in not only propelling me along in my Holy Work but also in propelling me to live well and have a life worth saving!

My question to all of you is:

  1. How are you validating your Sacred Work?
  2. How are you validating and helping the Sacred Work of others?
  3. How are you invalidating your Sacred Work and the Sacred Work of others?
  4. What is your plan for being "one grain of sand" better each day in this area?

Shabbat Shalom

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