The Spirituality And Meaning Of The Job Hunt

Posted by | July 9, 2012 | Articles, Blog, Jobs

Welcome to the blog!

I am excited to share periodic thoughts, member profiles, and other assorted tidbits connected with both the employer and employee ends of job hunting. Additionally, because I’m a teacher of Jewish studies, I’d like to share with you my own understanding of a traditional Jewish approach towards these issues. I’m also planning guest bloggers, and I welcome feedback, comments, and suggestions.

Rav said to Rav Kahana, “Better to flay a carcass in the market. and take payment. Don’t say, I’m a cohen! I’m a big man! This thing is hateful to me!” (Tractate Pesachim, 113a)

The Talmudic quote sounds possibly strange, and, well, gross. Bear with me for a moment, while I try to explain what I think is happening with this piece of text, AND how this connects to job hunting. Hang in there with me.

Let’s take apart this text, piece by piece:

Flaying a carcass, is DISGUSTING, meaning here, low-status, reviled work.
A cohen, a priest, at the time of the Talmud, was a person of high status in society.
This thing is hateful to me, means, I despise this job.
The phrase, “in the market,” refers to a public place, so everyone’s going to see him doing this job.

So, we can understand the statement like this:

Rav said to Rav Kahana, “It’s better to do disgusting, low-status work, that might make you feel humiliated, and get paid, then to fall upon such dire straits that you’ll need charity. Don’t think you’re above it.”

A little background for Talmud newbies – it’s an immense hodgepodge of arguments, discussions, rantings, and musings, full of legal and historical material, metaphors, and spiritual secrets, from around 450CE. Rav and Rav Kahana were rabbinic colleagues during that time period. The Talmud is packed with these kind of little conversations that actually express an entire worldview.

Rav, here, is expressing a Jewish attitude towards earning a living. He’s implying that earning a living is an experience that should be essentially dignifying, and preserving of the individual’s self-respect.  Falling to a status in which a person is forced to rely on handouts will  erode that person’s sense of self.

A job search, is therefore, according to this text, a meaningful, spiritually significant experience, because it allows the job seeker to retain his or her basic human dignity.

Job seekers, it is my hope that this perspective  on the grueling process of looking for a job provides you with encouragement to keep you on your way!

Coming soon – a spiritual perspective on the employee hunt!

Thanks to DH, Yehoshua Hershberg, who helped me translate the text.

Rachel  Hershberg
Jewish Jobster

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