Work Life Balance

At the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, we read,

God spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons, when they approached before God, and they died. And God said to Moses: Speak to Aaron, your brother- he shall not come at all times into the Sanctuary, within the Curtain, in front of the Curtain, in front of the Cover that is upon the Ark, so that he should not die; for in a cloud will I appear upon the Ark- cover. (Leviticus 16:1-3)

It seems logical to read this as an explanation for the death of Aaron’s sons. Nadav and Avihu  must have approached the special space at the wrong time. Or does it mean something else?

Seeing that Adina and I are coming up to our 10th wedding anniversary it must have been a decade since my mother gave me the per-wedding-advice talk. One thing I remember clearly is her suggestion that we should never go to sleep angry. In light of this wisdom I might offer another interpretation of this section of our Torah portion. I imagine that Moses was giving Aaron advice on how to do his job. Do not try to do your work , which is representing the people in their relating to God, when you are angry at God.

It is hard to just let things go or to actually deal with the issues when we are tired.  And worse than either of these options is to make-believe that there are no issues. We cannot just sleep these issues away. If Aaron was angry at God for the death of his sons ( which he should have been) then he should not try just to work through the pain. That is just unhealthy.

This is a challenge to many of  our lives. It is hard having a professional life separate from one’s personal life. If one is passionate about his/her work there is always a part of this work that is personal. This runs the risk of leading to a lot of drama at work. The answer for many people is to make a clear line between their personal and professional lives.  I think we can learn from Aaron that this is not always possible. To achieve deep satisfaction in our places of work we have to be open to the risk of being hurt personally. What is the other choice? If we live our lives with purpose we might even find a deep encounter with God in our places of work.

But maybe this is an over statement.  I realize that we all need balance. As much as I love my work, I also know that I get my love at home.  That seems healthy.



1 Response to “Work Life Balance”

  1. 1 dischwar May 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Well-written, Rabbi Avi. These are particularly useful thoughts for me, because I teach and pray in the same building, and the frequent Day School B’nai Mitzvah ceremonies lead to a blurring of my personal and professional life.

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