Who are you?
"I'm a lawyer."
"I'm a motor mechanic."
"I'm a rabbi."
"I'm a sanitation engineer."
Is this who you are, or what you do?
In modern day society, there has been a turn away from defining a person by his profession. True, some vocations enjoy greater pay packets and others entail superior social cachet, nonetheless in an example of almost reverse snobbery it has become fashionable to insist that no one man is any better than another.
I agree, to an extent. To claim any innate superiority between races or to attempt to rank individuals is to erroneously claim that one person can be inherently more worthwhile or valuable in G‑d's eyes.
However, this culture of equality we cultivate has its drawbacks. Australians are famous for their readiness to "cut down the tall poppy." Anyone judged to be striving too hard is dubbed a try-hard or a big-noter and mocked for his or her ambition. If everyone is equal, why waste time and effort struggling to succeed?
I believe that people are of equal worth, even as, simultaneously, each individual and nation has been assigned a specific role and a distinct approach to fulfilling their purpose. Accepting this doctrine of "equal but different" allows and demands that each of us utilize our G‑d-given talents to our maximum capacity while recognizing the essential dignity and importance of each individual.
To quote a school principal I know, "If the graduates of my school become street sweepers, fine, no problem; but let them be a mensch of a street-sweeper!"
What do you want me to do?
In this week's Parshah we read how, of all the Jews, a specific family was
singled out for Priestly duties. Moshe was commanded to "draw Aaron, together
with his sons, close to you, (separating them) from the children of Israel to
serve Me as priests" (Exodus 28:1).
Priesthood was who they were, not just what they did; a calling, not a
profession. Moses sanctified every member of the clan at G‑d's direction. They
and their descendants had no choice in the process. Should a member of the
family attempt to protest, insist on being treated as a regular run-of-the-mill
member of society, without onerous duties or subject to excessive demands, it
makes no difference. "You are a Kohen," he was told, "you must live up to your
"For whatever reason you have been chosen for a different role. Don't,
however, think this makes you special; there is no reason for arrogance. Being
singled out for greatness should not be a source of pride, rather it demands a
sense of humility as you deal with your greater burden."
The same is true about every single one of us. In some way, shape or form
there is a task waiting for each of us that no one else on this world can fulfil.
You may not welcome your task; you may rail against your burden; but it is
yours, and yours alone, to accomplish.