Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 27, 2005 / 18 Nissan, 5765

A Yalie on his knees

By Jonathan Rosenblum

Reflections on what matters most


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | A few years back, my wife came upon me scuttling about the kitchen on my hands and knees before Passover vigorously attacking the floorboards in an effort to remove the encrustration of several months. "Did you ever imagine yourself doing this when you were in Yale Law School?" she asked.


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article


Her question caught me off guard. Though I happen to delight in this particular activity, as I watch the transformation of the kitchen under my ministrations, I had to admit that cleaning floorboards had not been part of my career plan when I graduated.


On a deeper level my wife's question set off a sort of reverie, as I contemplated the enormous changes in my life in the last two decades.


Despite my share of prizes and honors in law school, today I lead my classmates in only two categories — least money earned since graduation and most children. The fame and fortune that I once assumed awaited me as a matter of course have somehow eluded me.


My law professors included many of the finest legal minds in America. I admired virtually every one of them — this one for his sharp wit, another for his civil rights work in Mississippi in the early '60s, yet another for his ability to force us, with his gentle prodding questions, to think harder that we had imagined ourselves capable.


And yet I never thought of any of them as a model for what a human life could be. I admired individual traits, not the whole individual. Had I asked myself then what I found lacking, I could not have answered, for I had never yet seen the quality that I sensed was missing. That would not come until years later when I was first privileged to be in the presence of a Torah scholar.


That elusive quality, which I could not even describe, but which I found lacking in everyone I knew (most of all myself), I would now call integrity.


By integrity I do not mean the usual dictionary definition of honesty. Rather I mean the quality of living a life that is integral, of a piece — a life not characterized by the familiar modern dichotomies of work and play, work and family, public morality and private morality. That quality can only come from one source: the knowledge that all life, whether we are in solitude or among a multitude, is lived in front of G-d.


Not for us Emerson's dictum — "A false consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Any lack of consistency in our lives reflects a failure to "set G-d before me, always."


I had many friends in law school — friends with whom I enjoyed discussing both ideas and trivia (often within such a short space of time that I now wonder whether the ideas were not just another form of trivia.) Though these friends had emerged victorious in what is arguably America's most rigorous academic selection process, and many possessed gifts that seemed to me truly formidable, I never envied them or thought to myself, "When will I reach their level?"


In part, I suppose, this was because few of us had yet done anything, though this in no way diminished our confidence in our innate superiority, both intellectual and moral. We started with the assumption that we were among the world's elite. Law school was just to provide us with the tools to force the fools and wicked of the world to conform to our vision of right and wrong.


There is no time today to maintain the number of friendships of those years. Yet I know many people, contemporaries and those much younger, of whom I am in awe, people whose very presence makes me acutely aware of my many failures. And I am not talking about well-known scholars or tzadikim (saints).


The awe that those friends inspire has nothing to do with their superior minds (though many possess such minds.) I have finally learned that G-d's gifts do not confer merit. They are just that — gifts — to be judged by what we do with them. Two qualities stand out about those I'm referring to: self-sacrifice and humility.


I will never forget a former study partner from Jerusalem's Mirrer Yeshiva rabbinical school. Only two months from completing his master's degree in classics at Oxford, he was advised by the greatest Torah leader of the generation to return to Oxford. But he could not. "My soul thirsts only for Torah," he explained.


In his youth, he had garnered just about every prize one could receive for intellectual brilliance. Yet after 16 years of learning day and night, he still humbled himself before his teachers and chased after them with the same eagerness he had shown as a rank beginner. Graduates of the world's elite universities, full of their own importance, were often sent to talk to him. They came away humbled. Not by his brilliance, but by his distance from all their obsessive self-ranking.


Sensing how little he thought of himself, they were ashamed to think so highly of themselves.


They had never before met a contemporary they could truly look up to. For the first time, they were forced to acknowledge someone who through his discipline, sacrifice and genuine concern for others had raised himself to a qualitatively different level of being. His example alone brought many to a life of Torah and mitzvos (fulfilling religious duties).


The reverie triggered by my wife's question is over and I ask myself: Any regrets about the path not taken? Well, there is still a momentary twinge when I read about a friend who has just been appointed Solicitor General of the United States or that some fellow a few classes ahead is president. But that usually lasts no longer than it takes the next child to walk through the door.


And I bet Bill doesn't get to do floorboards.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and the media consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


JWR contributor Jonathan Rosenblum is Israeli director of Am Echad. Click here to comment on this column.


© 2005, Jonathan Rosenblum