Italian writer Claudio Magris begins his magnificent work “Danube” with a chapter called “A Question of Gutters.” Amidst his philosophical speculations and historical allusions, he reminds us that all of this great civilization would not exist without proper gutters. Metaphysics matters, but it falters without plumbing.
The Rabbis of the Talmud all worked in a profession. They understood that it was foolish and unworthy to look down on people who actually make the world run.
“The Sages of Yavne used to say: I am a creature of God and my neighbor is also His creature; my work is in the city and his is in the field; I rise early to my work and he rises early to his. As he cannot excel in my work, so I cannot excel in his work. But you may be tempted to say, ‘I do great things and he small things!’ We have learned that it matters not whether one does much or little, if only he directs his heart to heaven.” [Ber. 17a]
Work well done is noble. Salary and social prestige are not the ultimate measures of worth. Direct your heart and hand to heaven.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).