As the Executive Director of a national Jewish organization and a member of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Speaker’s Bureau, I have the unique opportunity to frequently travel to diverse Jewish communities all over the United States. Often times, I am brought in as an “inspirational” speaker. Why are so many communities looking for inspiration? Time after time, the community leaders share the same refrain, “we need more active members! We need more people to get involved!” I will also add that being in my mid 30s appears to add to the appeal, as I often hear the complaint “We have nobody YOUR AGE showing up!”
As we are about to cross the threshold from the Jewish month of Elul into Tishrei and with it the squeaky clean brand new year of 5777, I challenge you all, let this be the year where you answer the call and say “hineni– I am here!” Let this be the year that you take the time to discover a passion-that you may not even be aware is there- that lives deep inside you. Let this be the year when you finally begin showing up.
Each one of us is born with our own unique gifts, talents, and passions. Having lived and worked in so many diverse communities around the world, I firmly believe that each and every single person has something to bring to the “community table” and add something to the conversation, BUT that can’t happen if you don’t show up.
Here is the biggest secret of all: no matter what your friends, your mother, or maybe even your boss may tell you, only YOU know which inner personal gifts lay beneath the surface, only YOU know which organizations and causes speak to your heart, and only YOU know how best to share of yourself.
The High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are meant as a time of personal reflection and introspection. Traditionally we are taught that during this special and sacred time of year we are supposed to take part in the personal practice of cheshbon hanefesh, literally the accounting of the soul. Usually, this cheshbon hanefesh, is meant to be done with holy intention of improving our relationships, both with fellow humans as well as our relationship with G!d. One is supposed to reflect on any transgressions and challenges from the past year, as well as begin to think about ways to start implementing possible improvements.
This year, I’m asking you to up the ante. This year I am challenging you to truly look within yourself in an attempt to discover where you can begin to “opt in” to your community. Whether it be becoming more active in your child’s school, expressing your passion for political activism, taking on a global cause, or volunteering to help set up cookies for your synagogue’s weekly oneg, it is time to show up. The gift of YOU is truly invaluable. Doesn’t your community, nay the world, deserve the chance to benefit from your unique gifts?
It is so easy to say, “oh, I’m so busy, I’ll never have time for that” when the emails asking for help arrive in your inbox, or a story on your Facebook feed pulls at your heart strings. It is so easy to assume that the elusive “someone else” will take care of what is needed, as was so accurately portrayed in the clever video from Temple Sholom of Cincinnati, Ohio. YOU are that someone else and it is time for you to show up. It is worth mentioning here, that this message is coming to you from a full time working mother of 3 children and rebbetzin, who also manages to teach university classes on the side. When we choose work and volunteer activities that light up our soul and express our passions, we all manage to find the time.
Your personal time is the greatest gift that you can give to your community. As Rabbi Yitz Greenberg is quoted as stating:
“But the most powerful statement of human value is not made by giving money or transferring goods from one person to the other. However valuable, such gifts are of finite value. The deepest confirmation of the preciousness of human life comes when a person gives his or her own infinitely valuable life to the other. Normally, this is not done by literally giving one life for the other—say in dying to protect or save another. The fundamental, ongoing communication of human value takes place when one person spends a piece of his or her life—some unique and irreplaceable amount of time—in relationship and service to the other.”
During the month of Elul, we blow the shofar every morning during shacharit, our morning prayers, to remind us to spiritually “wake up” and begin to the process of assessing our current selves in preparation for the holy days ahead of us. Let this be the year when “you do you” becomes “you discovering you” and thereby discovering the best parts of yourself that you can share with the world around you. I don’t even know you, but I already know that you have so much to give. Please share it with us this year and show up.
We are all waiting for you!
*This post is dedicated to the many special people in my life who choose to “show up” every day and give generously of themselves to the world!*