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Operation Inspiration

A Job Well Done

Recently I officiated at a wedding. As I stood near the Chuppah waiting for the processionals to start, the (non-Jewish) photographer came over and whispered, “Rabbi, I don’t want to be sacrilegious. Where should I stand?”

In my best “Wise Rabbi” voice, trying to convey the gravity of the answer, I whispered back: “You should stand… wherever you can get the best pictures!” He smiled. I said, “You’ve got a job to do; do your best.”

When I recounted the story, a friend told me a complementary story that completes the perspective. A well-respected Rosh Yeshiva was officiating at the wedding of a student of his. While perhaps great in spiritual stature, he was not overly large physically. Nevertheless, the photographer at the wedding expressed the feeling that the rabbi was in the way of his pictures.  

The Rosh Yeshiva asked the fellow, “Tell me, if you were covering the World Series, would you ask the 3rd baseman to move so you could get a better photo, or would you work around him to do your job?” I’ve no idea whether the photographer got the message but the Rosh Yeshiva made his point. When it comes right down to it, we each have a job to do. The question is what we take into account when doing it.

The first photographer knew he was charged with getting pictures of the wedding, and also understood that a Jewish wedding is not just a party but a solemn, holy event. He knew that as important as his job was, there had to be some boundaries. He therefore asked me what he had to know in order to do his work properly.

The second photographer was too focused on the stated job itself and made the mistake of thinking he was the one in the spotlight. It wasn’t about the wedding party or the people who hired him. It was about him being able to take great pictures but without taking all factors into consideration.

Imagine the groom who was so excited that his Rebbi could attend and officiate at his marriage. It was an honor for him and something he would want a record of. If the photographer had his way, the pictures would be beautiful but would not capture all that was going on. He would have framed the happy couple but cut out the Mesader Kiddushin because he didn’t feel it was relevant to his job. Surely when he was hired to photograph the couple they were the only focus!

However, he doesn’t think about the groom’s feelings of pride and warmth that his beloved Rosh Yeshiva made the time for him. He doesn’t know that someday the choson will look back and remember the smile he received which gave him such encouragement, or the bracha the sage wished on the newlyweds. Because he was only thinking of his “job,” he almost failed to perform it properly.

When asked the question about where to stand, I could have imagined that I was much more important than the photographer and given him orders to back off. I could have said that the atmosphere of the moment should not be disturbed by the flash of a camera. Of course, in that case, I’d be forgetting that he, too, had a role to play in the wedding. By recognizing that we both had jobs to do, I was able to make him at ease so we both completed our tasks the right way.

In life, everyone has a role to play. Some may seem to be running the show while others are merely part of the background of our lives. But we have to remember that if they are there, Hashem has a reason He wants them there. Their responsibilities are no less important than our own and we must ask if we’re letting them do their jobs.

At the same time, when we are so focused on doing our own jobs, we have to ask if we’re doing the job we were hired to do or merely the one we THINK we were hired to do. When Hashem wants us to teach others His ways, do we think that includes berating them if they’re not ready to learn? Wouldn’t pushing them away make our job harder and incomplete like the photog who wanted the rabbi out of the way?

If we want our children to be respectful, do we think shouting at them, “Don’t yell at your brother!” is the way to get through to them?

No my friends, as we go through life we need to consider the big picture and not get so focused on what we’re doing that we lose sight of it. If we can do that, then we’ll make great memories and keep smiles on everyone’s faces. And don’t worry; with a little practice, it’ll be a snap.

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