Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Worth your weight?

 "Worth your weight in gold"?  Gold is very high right now and without giving away my exact weight, I will say according to today's prices, I'm worth over 2.5 million dollars. Feeling pretty millionaire right now.

Rabbi Shai Held taught over 100 educators, lay leaders and clergy from the Coalition of Innovating Congregations that  a self worth that is "comparative or competitive is fool's gold." Of course he wasn't talking about comparisons  per troy ounce.
 Rather he was referring to a most common practice-- our worth comes from the I'm smarter-more beautiful-more-successful-than-others-standard. Or the opposite is true as well. I'm less worthy because I'm less-intelligent-beautiful-successful-standard.

I vividly remember my minimal value on that standard in seventh grade math. Mrs. Dyer would call out the test scores, Larry Shtasel, 97; Ricky Margolius 92, Cyd Gold --yes my maiden name is Gold--61. (I had a crush on Larry, tall with a smile. He could divide. And kiss...my first.)

"It's fool's gold," said Rabbi Held to believe that your sense of self-worth comes from such a standard. He spoke about his experience as the Harvard Hillel rabbi. The freshmen class was regularly in his office suffering from the discovery that they were just average. As high school seniors they were the valedictorians. As Harvard freshmen they were just like everyone else. So what was their value?

According to Rabbi Held's teaching of Jewish text**,we can know authentic self worth by realizing:
  • No one in the history of the world until now, and no person in all the history of world to come will be just like you.
  •  God loves us  in our singularity and uniqueness
  • Self worth is not something you earn...you have to attempt to live up to it..this is our responsibility in life. "God’s love is a call to service, and we answer not as human beings in general but as human beings in all of our particularity."
In a culture that insists on comparisons, how can we possibly develop self worth based on our uniqueness? on God's love?

Parents can make a difference, according to Rabbi Held.
"Next time someone asks, 'How is your daughter?' don't answer, she got this so and so award, say she helped someone this week."

"I tell my son," Rabbi Held said, "that Abba and Mommy love him very very much. And knowing that in some way some day I will disappoint that love, I tell him that God loves him even more. In this way my son will always know love."

We as educators can also play a role.
What is the experience of learning that is designed to help a child know and develop his unique gifts? What is Jewish space like that enables a young person to experience God's love?
Rabbi Held writes, "A real teacher works with her students’ individuality in two ways: She teaches in a way that the student can hear and learn, and she elicits from him his own unique insights and inspiration."

The Coalition can take on the challenge of flipping self worth on its head.
What is one thing you could do as a parent on educator...especially on that day when the teacher calls out something like what I heard  when I was in 7th grade math "Cyd Gold, test score, 48."

To follow Rabbi Held's teaching sign up @

**  Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5
Therefore was Adam created singly: (1) to teach you that if anyone destroys a single soul,* Scripture charges
him as though he had destroyed an entire world, and if anyone saves a single soul,* Scripture credits her as
though she had saved an entire world. (2) And [Adam was created singly] for the sake of peace in the human
race, so that no one might say to his fellow, “My ancestor was greater than your ancestor,” (2b) and that the
heretics should not say, “There are many powers in heaven.” (3) And [Adam was created singly] to proclaim
the greatness of the Blessed Holy One, for a human being stamps many coins with one die and they are all
alike one with the other, but the King of the kings of kings, the Blessed Holy One, has stamped all of
humanity with the die of the first man, and yet not one of them is like his fellow. (4) Therefore each and
every person is obligated to say, “For my sake was the world created.”
*Some versions say: “from Israel”
 Mishnah Avot 3:14
Rabbi Akiva used to say: “Beloved is the human being, for s/he was created in the image of God. Even
more beloved is s/he for it was made know to her/him that s/he was created in the image of God, as it says,
‘For in the image of God God made the human being’ (Genesis 9:6).”