By: Rabbi Mendy Wolf
Are you the kind of person who wants to be good at everything? Striving to be the ideal Renaissance man, a jack-of-all-trades? To many, the idea of being an all-around knowledgeable and capable individual sounds appealing.
It’s a great ambition, to be sure. Yet it comes at a high price. You lose the opportunity to be an expert.
To specialize means to focus on expertise in a particular area. It is a goal attained through hours, days and years of motivation, interest, hard work and consistency. An expert is one who eats, thinks and dreams his area of expertise, always seeking new solutions and ideas. A jack-of-all-trades does not have the time or clarity of thought to focus on one thing completely.
Thus, you can be good at everything, but you may never become excellent at anything. It’s the difference between a family doctor and a medical specialist. The former has a broad range of proficiency, but has not mastered any particular field. The latter, however, sees only a particular group of patients with a specific range of issues; but within that field, the sky is the limit for him.
Korach made this very mistake. This week’s Parsha tells us of how he challenged Moses’ authority and status. “All Jews are spiritual,” he claimed, “Why do we need a leader?” He neglected to realize that Moses served as an expert, a specialist in spiritual matters, a position that was at once vital and rare. True, all Jews are essentially holy and strive to do the right thing, but they are like the general practitioner compared to the specialist. The average person who lives a life of family, work and other interests can never reach the place of the righteous individual who is completely focused on spirituality. And so he needs that expert to educate, inspire and direct him.
Just as there are specialists amongst people, there are “specialist” moments in time. We may love our children and fill the house with toys, but nothing can compare to a half-hour spent playing with a child on the floor. Similarly, we may feel Jewish all the time, but we must find an hour, a day, a moment of focus on Judaism. It is not enough to be Jewish at heart or support Jewish causes; we need to experience quality Jewish moments. Experience a Shabbat; devote an hour to learning a topic in Torah; take a few minutes in your day to wrap a pair of Tefillin. And let that time of total focus do its magic.
Rabbi Mendy Wolf is the educational director for the Institute of American & Talmudic Law, and the director for Project Life, an organization which promotes Jewish values throughout the business community in NYC. R’ Mendy is a sought after teacher and lecturer and resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and family. Contact Rabbi Mendy to book him to speak or with feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.