("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Chaim saw himself as the quintessential public servant. Daily, he put on his civil service uniform for his hard working job, directing traffic at the city center. He carried a large baton and a shiny whistle and would march to work with his mission in mind: “To serve and protect --- to keep traffic moving smoothly.” From morning until evening, Chaim would stand proud. He would trot out to the center of the main intersection and would hold his hands up to stop cars when he wanted them to stop. When the time was right, Chaim would vigorously wave his hands, instructing cars and trucks to move onward too. In rain, sleet, snow or heat, good old Chaim would be out there, performing his civilian service, with a smile on his face and a strong sense of determination and dedication.
From early on in his career, Chaim was blessed with a partner. His partner, like Chaim, was equally dedicated. Daily, he too, lit up the morning with the sparkle his eyes put out over the city.
You see, Chaim’s partner was a traffic light.
One day, Chaim’s wife asked him why he ran to work and worked so hard. “Why not rely on the traffic light?” she asked.
“It’s not so simple,” he responded. “The light does its job and I need to do mine. We call that Hishtadlus.”
One day, Chaim fell into a panic. He was rushed to the hospital. All he could think about was the traffic. Who would watch it? Who would protect it from an accident? The more Chaim worried about it, the worse his condition got.
One of the other people in the ER tried to calm him down. “I know the intersection. There’s a good traffic light there. Nothing to worry about,” his fellow patient said. “What are you, nuts?” Chaim’s concerned wife responded. “Do you think a traffic light can replace my traffic officer?” she retorted. “If that were the case, why would Chaim have to work so hard all of these years?”
Rav Shalom Schwadron uses this story to remind us that in many ways we are all like Chaim. We run the rat-race of life thinking that through ridiculous hours and sacrifices of things we find important to us like Torah study and Mitzva performance, we will work hard enough to get what we want out of life. Still, the Talmud tells us that it isn’t our work alone that brings about our success – it is the will of Hashem.
When we recall that Hashem is the one deciding how successful we will be –even in this world, it should help us set our priorities in line with those of the real boss of our businesses.
We are quickly approaching the month of Elul which ushers in the Rosh Hashana season. How might we reassess our priorities and missions in life? How might we redefine success this year? What might we do differently in the coming years to achieve it?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.