I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to a friend for a project he’s working on today.
He asked me:
What is the most inspiring thing about your work?
This was a surprising question and one I have not thought about much. Being a rabbi comes with a lot of encounters with different people in a myriad of places in their lives. Some serious, like a death or loss in a family, some joyous, like a baby naming or family celebration, and sometimes in totally normal circumstances, like classes.
Each bring a lot to bear and it can be easy to forget how much attention you’re actually getting. “People actually listen to me,” my friend, Rabbi John Carrier remarked. (He’s an amazing rabbi and you should go watch his videos here.) And this is really true. It is easy to forget.
This demands of us to really pay attention to what we say.
To be consistent.
To be honest.
This responsibility aside, I was excited by this question about inspiration and this is what I shared:
I remembered a class that I taught last month, in December, for Congregation Beth Shalom’s Derekh Open Beit Midrash. I taught the sections of Talmud on Hanukkah.
At the end, one of the students remarked that the lesson I was teaching reflected something I had taught in the early fall on Yom Kippur. A whole three months later, this student remembered something I said!
My teaching centered around the idea that many of our rituals, in this case lighting the Hanukkah candles and the sitting in the Sukkah, have embedded in them the ideas of inclusion, welcoming, and relationships.
This connection was NOT something I had noticed or planned. It was a deeply powerful moment for me. I was so inspired by the engagement of my students, the sensitivity of their attention, their depth of awareness.
My goal is to have one students understand, learn, make meaning out of a class at any given moment. If I can improve the life of one person, I consider this a win. Surpassing that and being impacted by one of my students is always icing on the cake.
Sufficed to say, this class was a win.
I was impressed by my students.
I continue to be surprised by them.
I was inspired by them.
What inspires you?
Want to watch the original interview with Rabbi John Carrier? Check it out here.