Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Sometimes, It’s Your Call

“When did you receive your calling?”. I was a rookie Rabbi, making small talk with a local Minister, when he asked me this question. I was tongue tied; I had never heard voices or had a dream telling me to become a Rabbi. God never called upon me.

Since that time, I have reflected on different types of callings. Some callings appear out of the blue, a burning bush that beckons while searching for lost sheep. Other callings start early on. Samson and Samuel receive their callings before they are born. And like them, there are people who as children, just know, that they were meant to be a doctor or fireman. Or like Joshua, they are apprenticed from a young age, following a mentor into a profession.

However, most of us are never called. There are no angelic apparitions or divine signs that lead to our destiny. Where can we find our calling?

Sometimes it’s our call. We all experience times when we learn something disconcerting, and think to ourselves “ ‘someone’ should do something about that”. And we leave it at that, assuming that “someone” will take care of it. Well, there may be no choir of angels, no thunder or lightning, but the moment that you think “someone” should do something, is actually a moment of divine calling; it is you, not “someone”, who is being called to duty.

This is a much higher form of calling. It is far superior for people to step up on their own, without waiting for God to tap them on the shoulder. Judith Kaplan, a student at Yeshiva University, found her calling in the aftermath of the World Trade Center bombing. She joined a group of volunteers who kept a round the clock vigil at the city morgue. These volunteers were doing shmira, standing watch over the bodies until they were buried, reciting Psalms. For months, Kaplan volunteered for this task every Shabbat.

Aaron Singer found his calling after the Passover bombings in 2002. An American who had served in the Israeli army, he left his wife and baby daughter to return for reserve duty. Noting that Israeli soldiers were outfitted with average flak jackets, he started a charity to buy state of the art bulletproof vests for Israeli soldiers.

The greatest callings are the ones we discover on our own. These driving force behind these callings are best expressed in the words of a New York City fireman, interviewed after 9/11. He explained that he became a fireman because “I wanted to be able to wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, and say I’m doing something with my life”.

Now that’s a serious calling. What’s yours?

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