Your Job Is Not Your Identity

Rabbi Jacobson explains why you should never ask someone, “What do you do?”

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Gerry in San Diego
7 years ago

Hello Rabbi,

I found your Monday Moment very interesting. I agreed with everything except the last sentence. Why do you say that you are there to refine your job, the job is not there to refine you?

It seems to me that the experience of work is an endless cycle in which we learn to do work, in which case we benefit others and we learn from it to do a better job (and maybe learn something about life in the process).

I love my work and I have loved many other jobs, from farming in Kibbutz to social work counseling, programming and information tech management and finally as owner of a pest control company in my last reincarnation, so to speak. I have made far too many mistakes to count, but there is no doubt that I am on a higher spiritual plane because of the trek I have made in my work.

Yes, I am not what I do, but I am proud of how it has played a meaningful role in shaping who I am.

On another level, I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts about all this discussion about “parnasah.” I can understand, as I remember myself many times in the past, worrying about how I would make a living. And I think this is a big fear in the religious community, especially due to the
lack of focus to secular studies combined with large family size. But at some point, I believe that there needs to be a shift in the religious community away from the subject of “parnasah,” which is an earnings and result focus, toward the actual work, the daily work related mitzvah, that enables us to take home a check. We should be focused more on the “kavanah” of work and the “parnasah” will take care of itself.

What say you?

Most respectfully,

Gerry from San Diego

Marc Oromaner
7 years ago

Like most people I grew up learning that you must work hard, get a good job, and then, after 40 years of building someone else’s dream you get to start on your own–if you still have the energy. Seeing my parents work all the time I thought I’d be smarter and try to get a job doing something I enjoyed doing. I’ve since come to learn that this is still broke thinking. The way wealthy people think is that you should do something that works, that enables you to build up passive income, so then you can focus on building your dream and sharing your passions which ultimately involves helping others. The philosophy of my mentors is, “Success is defined by how many people are better off because you lived.” That resonates for me and it’s what I’m working towards now.

Thanks for getting this message out there Rabbi. In so little words you’ve communicated enough to get people asking why they are doing what they do.

Lots of Light,

Marc “Mendel” Oromaner

The Meaningful Life Center