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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘job’

Failing in Order to Succeed

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The rabbis teach that we can only truly understand Torah when we allow ourselves to fail at it (Gittin 43a). Unless we push ourselves to reach for deeper understanding, where we inevitably get it wrong before we can get it right, we will not grasp the very essence of the Jewish enterprise. Rashi here seems to think that it’s the public shame of getting it wrong (and the concomitant rebuke) that strengthens one’s intellectual rigor. It is not hard to think about giving constructive feedback (“rebuke”) when it comes to moral matters, but do we care enough about ideas that we (respectfully) challenge others when ideas are misinterpreted or misapplied? How much do we really value the marketplace of ideas and the assurance that we as individuals and as a society get it right?

History is full of examples of leaders who acknowledged that persistence in the face of failure was more important than individual failures. President Abraham Lincoln, whose army suffered many crushing defeats in the early years of the Civil War, said: “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.” A century later, Robert F. Kennedy echoed the optimistic spirit of youth when he said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Besides for being tragically assassinated, what these presidents have in common in that their causes lasted, their legacies carried on, and they are remembered as being among the greatest and most successful men to occupy the Oval Office.

Very often, one can be lured by the traps of conformism (just follow others’ ideas or practices) or isolationism (just follow one’s own marginal ideas and practices). Our job as Jews is to break free from these ploys for mediocrity. We must challenge ourselves and the status quo to reach higher by engaging with societal ideas but without blindly accepting them.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Chassidic movement) and founder and intellectual-spiritual leader in his own right, was anything but a conformist. He not only told his followers to be happy, but he also encouraged them to do silly things, highly unusual for a religious leader. Rebbe Nachman stated that each person had to fall in order to rise, and stressed the universality of this concept:

[E]ach person who fell … thinks that these words weren’t spoken for him, for he imagines that these ideas are only for great people who are always climbing from one level to the next. But truthfully, you should know and believe, that all these words were also said concerning the smallest of the small and the worst of the worst, for Hashem is forever good to all.

However, Rebbe Nachman went further, stating that it is “a great thing for a person to still have an evil inclination.” Even the tendency to evil could serve G-d, as people worked through these passions and eventually overcame them. To Rebbe Nachman, it seems, spiritual stasis is the only unacceptable path.

We must be willing to learn and debate with others. Ideas matter. Inevitably that will lead to some level of shame when we get it wrong, but the promise land afterwards is much greater. It offers a culture of more honest, informed, connected individuals who are willing to be vulnerable for the sake of truth and who are willing to be wrong in order to get it right. Our great rabbinic and presidential leaders wouldn’t have it any other way.

Meet a 19-Year-Old Explosives Expert

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Growing up, it was uncommon for students from Corporal Dylan Ostrin’s International school to join the IDF, let alone stay in Israel. However, she had a specific vision for herself: she wanted to be in the Combat Engineering Corps.

Corporal Dylan Ostrin made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from the US at the age of seven with her family. After moving from Texas and California, Cpl. Ostrin spent much of her school years at an international school where the students were children of foreign residents, such as diplomats, who did not have a connection to the land, history or culture and did not plan on making their lives in Israel. Tailoring to this crowd, her school provided an education devoid of Israeli identity, including the idea of joining the IDF. “My school’s point of view was to graduate and go as far away from Israel as possible for college,” said Cpl. Ostrin.

For her, joining the army was not the norm, unlike most people who grow up in Israel. “I see it as a privilege to be able to serve my country and I was not prepared to give that privilege up.”

Today, Cpl. Ostrin is an explosives instructor in the Combat Engineering Corps. She teaches all things explosive: from how to handle the explosives themselves to utilizing them in operations, such as gaining access to buildings. The soldiers she leads are mainly reservists who come back for their annual duty, ranging in age from 22 to 40 and sometimes more. Cpl. Ostrin loves working with reservists because it is satisfying to see reservists relearn things they might not have done in years.

“[Reservists] come out of their everyday life to do this, [leaving] their family, their work,” she explained. “They don’t have anyone to force them to listen. So I really have to show them how much I know in order to keep their attention.”

Though she loves her job, Cpl. Ostrin has dealt with hardships during her service. First, due to a filing error, she was placed in the wrong course for several months. She fought for what she wanted, including writing letters, making phone calls, begging her higher ups and even spending a whole day trying to convince different placement officers. They finally agreed to correct the situation.

After all the stress of trying to get into the right training track, Cpl. Ostrin received some hard news that would affect every aspect of her life. Due to a job promotion, her parents were leaving Israel and moving to the U.K. When her mother presented the situation to her and her brother, Cpl. Ostrin at first told them they should not leave. However, she later realized she is independent enough to thrive on her own, thanks to the new sense of independence she learned from serving in the IDF.

“If my parents would have told me they were leaving before I entered the army, I don’t know how I would have dealt with it. But the army teaches you certain skills that force you to become your own person and be independent,” she said.

Since her parents moved, Cpl. Ostrin has been getting by as a lone soldier, especially thanks to her fellow soldiers. She said have become more like family than just friends. They have invited Cpl. Ostrin and her brother over holidays, weekends, and when she was sick, her fellow soldiers picked her up from to take her to doctor appointments.

Now that things have settled down, Cpl Ostrin is enjoying every minute of her job. She has already begun receiving job offers to work on bomb squads and similar security-related teams both in Israel and abroad, but is focusing on the present. “Serving in the army, in a job I wanted to do, is more rewarding than anything else. I’m doing it for the good of the people around me and the good of the country.”

Hillary Launches First 2016 Campaign Video, Bibi’s in It

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

You liked her as NY Senator, you loved her as Secretary of State, you’ll go bonkers adoring her as the 45th president of these United States. And if, like yours truly, you answered no on all of the above, well, get ready for four more years of the same merciless pain…

In an item headlined The Eight-Minute Tribute Video That Convinced David Remnick Hillary Clinton Is Running For President, BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer introduces the eight-minute tribute video to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which convinced the DC bleacher crowd she’s absolutely running for president come 2016.

The video is studded with international stars, including Boss Obama and the man who used to be Tony Blair, complete with a “soaring Bruno Mars soundtrack” and the uplifting slogan: “I just have an instinct that the best is yet to come.”

I just have the instinct to go under my bed and stay there until 2020.

Benjamin Netanyahu says on this video: “I’ve just had the opportunity to work with her to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Hillary Clinton is a strong and determined leader…She knows how to get the job done.”

Is this the new bonne tonne, to insert the word “just” in your sentence, just for the hell of it?

Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of Palestinian National Authority says there: “You know when Hillary’s in the room. She is highly personable. She’s real.”

Sounds like something Bill Clinton never managed, that “you know when she’s in the room” thing. Could have proven useful.

Madeleine Albright says: “She has a laugh that is completely infectious.”

A must quality for a president, if you ask me.

– Ms. President, what started that whole murder thing in Benghazi?

– Ha ha ha ha…

Finally, this is what President Obama says on the vid: “Through it all, I’ve relied on the shining qualities that have defined your life. Your conviction, your optimism, your belief that America can and must be a force for good in the world… I’ll say it again — you’ve been one of the best secretaries of state in American history. And finally, Hillary, a lot’s been said about our relationship, and here’s what I know: you haven’t just been one of my closest partners — you’ve become a great friend. I’m so grateful for your grace, you humor, your friendship.”

It’s in the bag…

Famous Last Words

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are pictured in the Oval Office, Nov. 29, 2012.

What does one say on such an occasion?

“Would you care for some dog?”

“Yes, it was actually Kenya. Now I’ll have to kill you.”

“Wanna’ see some amazing Area 51 photos?”

“Why don’t you buy yourself an island and become their president?”

“We were looking for a good nuclear waste dump and, guess what, Utah’s name came up.”

“I could really use your clout in negotiating with the Republicans…”

That last one would probably sting the worst. Unlike senator McCain, who kept his day job back in 2008, Romney is just going to have to retire with nothing to his name other than $300 million, give or take.

And he doesn’t even drink or smoke. I can’t believe only 30% of the Jews voted for him. What’s wrong with you, people?

Meanwhile, President Obama will be preparing to go after Netanyahu for the expansion of Jerusalem all the way to Maale Adumim, virtually scrapping the idea of a contiguous Palestinian state.

“Care for some dog?”

The Other Caped Crusader

Friday, November 30th, 2012

I quit my full-time job eight months ago without another one to fall back on. In hindsight, it wasn’t one of my better decisions, but it was time for me to move forward. I was in a position that never quite suited me – like an ill-fitting pair of shoes that’s one size too small and rubs across the toes. Sure, a nagging thought called a recession cropped up from time-to-time before I resigned, but I was confident I would only be on the market for a few weeks, max. Armed with a new LinkedIn profile and a heaping dose of faith, I bid farewell to my boss and colleagues of six years to embark on my new journey.

The job hunt went well at first, until I realized my journey had taken me down a metaphorical six-lane highway, ejected me from the car, and thrown me down an embankment. I lay among the debris, moaning. I managed to crawl back up, only to lie down in the middle of the highway as traffic barreled down on me. And I stayed there – unemployed – for months. I began arguing with God. “How could you do this to me?” I howled. “I’m a good person. I don’t deserve this.” I was greeted with silence.

Echoes of the poem “Footprints” ran through my mind: “You promised me Lord that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?” More silence.

I rolled over on the now jam-packed highway to confirm that my super-hero cape –emblazoned with the word “righteous” on the back – was still firmly affixed to my neck. It was. I could not make any sense as to why God had not yet sent me a rental car to get me back on my journey. I reasoned perhaps He was waiting for some additional prayers. “Fine,” I thought. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Please God,” I began. “Please send me a new job. I have always been a good servant to You. I am honest and ethical and I call my mother almost every day.” Silence. I needed a different tack. “The emotional and financial toll of my unemployment on my family is heartbreaking,” I pleaded. “They shouldn’t suffer because You haven’t sent me a new job.”

There was an angry silence – but this time, it was mine.

That was it. All bets were off. I was fuming. I had no choice but to officially declare war on God. I would not speak to Him unless spoken to – and since that seemed rather unlikely given the chilly reception I had been receiving – I decided from that moment forward, we would maintain separate lives and living quarters. I stopped davening. I stopped hoping. I cursed my fate and my belief system, angry at being punished. I began an accounting of all the things that had gone wrong in my life and found God sorely lacking. But I was not ready to admit defeat. I would not let God off the hook for abandoning me in my time of need.

And from the rubble that was now my life, a calm voice – one of reason – suddenly emerged. “You can’t lie down across a six-lane highway and expect to be saved,” God said. “But the cape,” I said, my voice trailing off. “What about the cape? Did you see it? I’m a righteous individual, a good person,” I argued. “I know I haven’t given much to charity lately, but what do you expect when you refuse to send me a new job?”

“Roll over,” God said. I did. “The other side,” God instructed. And there it was on my cape. “Self” was inscribed just before the word “righteous.”

I was embarrassed. There it was for all to see – like the Scarlet Letter. I had been self-righteous and pompous and I had to own my mistakes. “I sinned against you,” I told God. “I failed in my journey of faith.”

Going Home

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Israeli soldiers were packing up their gear as they leave their staging area near the Gaza border, on the first day of the ceasefire, Friday, November 22, 2012.

This morning the Likud is holding its primaries, to select a list of candidates for the Knesset. I sincerely hope that at least those Likud members who live down south will let their leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, know what they think about the shameful way he sold them out.

Netanyahu kicked the can down the street, gaining a few months of quiet, after which it is obvious that these same soldiers will be called back to do the job of suppressing the Hamas violence. But the new ceasefire agreement will make it just a little bit harder for them to do the job.

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. We could do much better.

Dear Abba: They Won’t Send Us in

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Dear Abba,

Thanks you for your letters. And for writing them in English. I don’t understand all the words, but one of my friends, Johnny, the “chayal boded” from America who spent a few Shabbat with us because he doesn’t have any family in Israel, he translates for me what I don’t know. He likes your letters too. We all call him “Stallone” because of his heavy American accent, and because he’s so eager to go into action to “wipe out the Apaches” as he calls the Hamas. All day long, he badgers the commanders, wanting to know what’s holding things up. He’s like the spring on an Uzi, ready to fire. All of us are.

I’m writing in Hebrew because it would take me all day to write an SMS in English. Sorry I was so groggy when you phoned me this morning. I didn’t get much sleep last night because of the flies. We’re stationed on the edge of the Negev and the flies here are ferocious. I don’t know what’s worse, the grad missiles over Beer Sheva or the flies. Maybe Hashem is sending them to get us out of our sleeping bags and into action. I wish He would send them to Bibi and Barak, so they’d give the orders already. What are they waiting for?

We have a lot of free time here while we’re waiting for the green light to go into Aza, and we talk about the things you have written, in our own way, but let me assure that the moral is extremely high – everyone wants to go in. As you know, we only have another two more months before we finish our service and everyone is happy that we finally have a chance to do something important for the country.

If you were here, you’d think we were off to a wedding, the spirit and joy is so great. Among the soldiers there isn’t any indecision or argument like there is in the media. I don’t listen to the radio anymore because of the talk all day long about whether it’s worthwhile or not to send troops into Aza. This is a war isn’t it? The Hamas is making a joke out of Israel and we have to teach them a lesson. Not everyone here is religious but everyone feels the honor of Israel is at stake. If you ask me, it’s more than regular patriotism. Even soldiers who never studied Torah understand that this is a war of good over evil, and everyone is ready to go into battle with “Shema Yisrael” on their lips. Not surprisingly, minyans are packed.

If we don’t get the orders to go into Gaza, every soldier is going to be very disappointed. I can’t speak about the reservists who have been called up, but our guys are counting the seconds until we get the OK. No one is afraid. Every one of our commandos is like 10 Rambos. Guys aren’t worried about dying. The opposite – they’re dying to get into action.

We learned in Lebanon that we can’t defeat the enemy with our Air Force alone. What’s the point of a truce that will last for three weeks until Hamas fires more rockets at Israel? Why not finish the job once and for all? My unit has been training for almost three years how to wage combat in populated areas. We’re ready. We all know what the dangers are. That’s what our training is all about. We’re not here against our will. We want to do the job. Not just to kill Arabs to pay them back for all the Israelis they’ve killed without any distinction. We want to destroy the Hamas and the Jihad because we all know it’s the right thing to do.

I sense the country is behind us – certainly the people of the south, and now in Tel Aviv. In a way it’s good that finally they hear the sirens there too, instead of just watching the missile attacks on TV.

I invited Yonaton to be with us the first Shabbat we’re free. I know it’s all right with you and Ema. Give her my love and tell her not to worry – even though I know that she’ll worry all the same. Right now, I’m fine, but if this waiting game continues, I may need more socks, and I forgot the cream against foot allergies, so if you decide to drive down, bring them with you. Ema knows where everything is. I’m pretty sure the roads to our base are still open.

Give my love to everyone.

Noam

I forgot to ask on the phone – how are Saba and Safta in Ashkelon?

 

Creative Thieves

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

The Palestinians are creative, I’ll give you that. Take a look at what was fired at Israel yesterday. Nothing really unusual – another kassem rocket…oh wait…

Those are charity boxes – commonly attached to poles in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and other cities. The Palestinians actually stole a street pole (charity boxes included) to fire at Israel. They are a creative bunch. My guess is that charity within did its job and protected Israel’s residents from harm.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

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