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Play to your strengths

07/01/2021 10:50:59 AM

Jul1

This week, the YouTube algorithm introduced me to Karen Kavett. Known for her YouTube channel Karen Puzzles, Karen regularly posts videos of her doing, you guess it, puzzles. Objectively, it didn’t seem like something I would enjoy watching, but the video was entitled “I BOUGHT MY DREAM PUZZLE (24,000 Piece Puzzle – Part 1 of 6)” and I was intrigued. How long does it take someone to do such a colossal puzzle? How would one even go about doing it? What kind of person commits to such an undertaking? And thus began my deep dive into her world of puzzles and I found myself genuinely enjoying her enthusiasm for this niche hobby. While I enjoy a puzzle every now and then, I pale in comparison to her passion for puzzles. Not only that, but her patience, persistence, and organizational skills truly make her a perfect person for this particular hobby. Puzzles aren’t for everyone, but they are definitely for Karen Kavett. 

This notion that different people are cut out for different kinds of work is by Jewish sages who studied parshat Pinchas. In this week’s portion we get the details of the zealot Pinchas who skewers a sinning Israelite who is having carnal relations with a Midianite woman. Taking the law into his own hands, Pinchas acts in the heat of the moment and as a result ends up killing two people. As a result of his zealotry and commitment to God, he is made into a priest as a seeming reward for his actions. However, our sages were uncomfortable with such vigilante justice and for such a zealous action. Instead of understanding his elevation to becoming a priest as a “reward”, they instead interpret it as a means through which God and Moses can keep an eye on the zealous Pinchas, and make sure he doesn’t get into any more trouble. Like a teacher who delegates a task to a problem student to keep them busy, Pinchas is given a job related to the sacrifices and thus provided with an outlet for his violent tendencies and his zeal at carrying out the letter of the law. In other words, the blood and organs of sacrifices might not be for everyone, but they definitely were for Pinchas. 

As we reflect on Pinchas’ character traits and how the sacrificial program was a means for him to put his talents to better use, we can similarly reflect on our own character traits and the types of work at which we personally excel. From hobbies to professions, what are the activities and functions that we seem to be best suited for? Similarly, when we reflect on our families and friends, what roles do different loved ones excel at? If we can find appropriate outlets for our strengths, and for the strengths of our friends and families, then perhaps we too can do our part to make the world a better place, to solve the outstanding puzzles of the world around us, and to do so with zeal and enthusiasm.   

Shabbat Shalom

Mon, September 20 2021 14 Tishrei 5782