Changing the paradigm
Comedy acts must excel at many things to keep an audience’s interest. Relevance, timing, intonation and edginess are all the moving pieces that decide whether the act will be a success. The only way for a comedian to find success is to constantly reinvent and readjust the act.
Truthfully, the same can be said for every profession and way of life. If we allow any part of our life to remain static, it falls into the trap of becoming stale. When it becomes stale, it is relegated to the trash heap of history.
Imagine being a teacher in the classroom. It is your 15th year, and you use the same lesson plan you used in year one. What happens? The students sense the teacher’s lack of excitement and, like sharks sensing blood in the water, that the teacher is about to be eaten up. The teacher blames behavioral problems on the students, maintaining that these lesson plans are tried and true, and this cannot be at fault. Therefore, it must be the upbringing of the students and social media. While recycling lesson plans is much less time-consuming, I’m reminded of the Mishna in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) that states: “Be deliberate in judgment.” The Rabbis explain that when a case is brought before you and it seems to be like a case that was adjudicated by you on multiple occasions, even so, view it as if it is the first time. The Mishna is teaching us that nothing stays the same and we must view everything as if it is new.
Throughout Deuteronomy, Moshe says, “Today you have received the Torah.” In reality, the Jews received it 40 years earlier. How can Moshe say “Today?” It teaches us that in every generation and every day, we must view the Torah as if we are standing at Mt. Sinai and receiving Hashem’s special gift. As opposed to seeing it as an ancient document, the Torah becomes much more special and valuable to us. It is not stale, but rather a vibrant living document.
Now, imagine, if we take this philosophy and let it permeate the rest of our life. As a teacher, I walk in energized to the classroom with a palatable excitement about what I’m about to teach. The students sense the energy and respond positively, feeling energized by the ambience. They know that what is about to be imparted is important and act accordingly.
Another scenario: I’m sitting in a meeting and hear the same problems and concerns that I heard last time. I feel that nothing has evolved. The paradigm is the same, time after time. The sense of frustration of feeling that all is lost is bubbling to the top. As Winnie the Pooh’s friend Eeyore said, “Oh, what’s the use?” Yet, start the meeting with the accomplishments since last time and the air is filled with hope of change and growth. It is filled with a crispness and understanding that problems and difficulties can be overcome when seen through a different lens.
Or one is unemployed and has signed up for all of the job boards. Multiple applications have been submitted online. Nothing seems to work. You find the book, What Color is your Parachute? and you discover a whole new way to find gainful employment, which totally changes the paradigm that you presently use. You feel invigorated, knowing that the best is yet to come.
Really, it is all about changing the paradigm in one’s mind. Whether looking for a job, profession, partner, community, etc., if one has a positive attitude and continues to see things as new and relevant, malleable, and solvable, nothing becomes impossible. It just becomes a matter of finding a solution. Should one fail in the first or even 15th attempt, it doesn’t mean you should quit, but rather, move on with the same excitement as if this were the first time, just as Moshe instructed us as to how to view the Torah and its instructions!
Rosh Hashanah is nearly here. We are about to have our annual coronation of Hashem as our King. We can enter feeling “same old, same old,” or enter like it is our first time and look forward to the pomp and circumstance that this time of year demands. We can reflect on where we came from and how things have evolved and use that energy to accomplish even more.
Last month, I announced our annual Rosh Hashanah Appeal, in which we are trying to raise $6000 for our Virtual Food Pantry. As stated, my dream is to have automatic monthly donations that will maintain the funding of the Pantry. I am excited by the generosity that I continually see and, with your continued desire to partner with me to ensure the financial stability of our Pantry Program continues, feel confident that we will hit our immediate goal and long-term dream.
On behalf of Jewish Family Services and myself, I pray that we all have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. May we all be written and inscribed for a good and sweet year.
Rabbi Fred Nebel
Jewish Family Services Director