> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Brainstorming with Baars

Finding Passion

Tzav (Leviticus 6-8 )

by Rabbi Stephen Baars

We all need a sense that what we are doing makes a real difference.

When Rose Blumkin left Belarus to came to America in the 1920's, she did not speak a word of English and had no formal education. But with the $500 she borrowed from her brother, she started a very modest furniture store in Omaha Nebraska. Very modest.

However, by the time Mrs. B (as she was affectionately named) sold the Nebraska Furniture Mart to Warren Buffet, it was the largest furniture store in America.

Buffet said about Mrs. B., "Put her up against the top graduates of the top business schools or chief executives of the Fortune 500 and, assuming an even start with the same resources, she'd run rings around them."

How do you get to be so successful?

In this week's parsha God commands the Kohanim (priests) to remove the ashes every morning from the Temple. At first glance, that doesn't sound like the kind of task one would give to such a holy and important person. In fact, it doesn't sound like the kind of thing that needs mentioning at all.

Interestingly, the Talmud reports that the Kohanim were so eager to take out the ashes, that they instituted a lottery system to stop them arguing about who would get the job! In contrast, every four years there is an election in America. Many important roles and positions are on the ballot. But not the garbage men!

Rav Yaacov Weinberg zt"l tells of a social science experiment in which minimum wage workers were hired to work along a conveyor belt, simply screwing nuts onto bolts. After a while however, the conveyor belt was reversed and these same workers had to take these same nuts off those same bolts.

They found that no matter what they were paid, people wouldn't do it.

We all need a sense that what we are doing makes a real difference. In other words, it's not the money. We need to feel we are doing something important. Double or triple your salary, and nevertheless if all you did was move papers from one side of your desk to the other, you would soon quit. When Apple turned against Steve Jobs they wanted to fire him, but couldn't. What did they do? They gave him an office with no responsibilities. All he had to do was show up and he would get paid - and they didn't even care if he showed up!

Jobs couldn't do it, and he quit.

I have been told that the time of greatest productivity in America was World War Two. Anyone who was putting a nut on a bolt or sweeping a factory floor, or driving a bus felt they were making a real difference.

This concept can be seen in every person you work with. If the goal is important to them, then they are willing to take out the garbage, and if it isn't, then you can't pay them enough to do it. When you do it for the money, then you need the prestige as well.

I grew up in London, and while I was in school a friend of mine was chosen to serve in Buckingham Palace for the Queen of England. It was a different time and a different place - but you could not put a lid on how proud he felt doing that job, a job in any other place or any other time would make him feel belittled.

When you view your job like that, you will be a Mrs. B.

Find a career or job for which you are willing to take out the garbage, and you have found your passion.

This is not as difficult as it might seem. I remember growing up while NASA was trying to put a man on the moon. There was not a single kid I knew that wouldn't give everything to take out the garbage in mission control.

Now we can understand the removing of the ashes. This was quite simply, taking out God's garbage.

So, our lesson?

Passion comes from the goal NOT the role. Don't worry about the title, worry about the results.

If in what you choose, you are willing to do whatever needs to be done, then you can have passion.

If you aren't doing something that you would feel honored taking out the garbage, then being the CEO is no honor either.

By the way, what do we call people who are willing to do whatever needs to be done, where the title is as irrelevant as the compensation?

We call them parents.

* * *


Question 1: Think of a time when you were so focused on a goal that eating and maybe even sleeping had no place in your mind. The goal was so important that no task was too menial for you. What was that goal and how did you feel about completing it?

Question 2: What are the top three most important goals that a human being can have?

Question 3: What can you do every day to help achieve those goals?

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