Jewish Journal


August 13, 2010

10 things I’ve learned (in 20 years as a rabbi)


This week, I marked my 47th birthday. I know. It’s a pretty non-descript number. More significantly though, the birthday marked 20 years since I entered the congregational rabbinate (I can’t believe it.) So in celebration, I’ve put together the list of:

10 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years as a Rabbi.
I hope you find them useful, whatever you do in this world.

(1) When you’re being criticized, listen closely. There’s at least a 50% chance that you’re about to learn something that will make your life measurably better.

(2) When being thanked for something you’ve done, don’t minimize your deed or insist that you don’t need to be thanked, even if your humility is sincere. Words of thanks are being given as a gift. It’s hurtful to turn them down.

(3) “90% of life is just showing up” may be an overstatement. But I know that I’ve never regretted a decision to show up. You just can’t hug someone over the phone.

(4) You are never more yourself, than when you are being selfless.

(5) Listen to other people’s problems even though you know you can’t solve them. Most of the time, they’re not asking you to solve them. They’re just asking you to care about them.

(6) It’s just not possible to make everyone happy. But it is possible to remain on friendly and respectful terms with everyone. And it’s worth the effort.

(7) Anger is the least productive of all human emotions.

(8) Words spoken in public, especially when spoken by someone who is thought to carry moral authority, have the capacity to heal miraculously or to harm irreparably. Never ever speak thoughtlessly in public.

(9) When you sincerely apologize to someone, you don’t experience shame. You experience joy, for the future is now filled with hope and new possibility.

(10) Years and years later, people will tell you about the way you impacted their lives for the better. And you never had any idea. This, is a taste of the World to Come.


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