Monday, December 6, 2010

The Solution for Sanity: Compartmentalize or Connect?

While I knew about it intellectually, I emotionally underestimated the hours and stressfulness of "biglaw." Unfortunately, that stress does not limit itself to the hours I spend in the office. It is affecting my Shabbos and my weekend (non-working) time with the family and this is the most discouraging part.

Background: I operate under the assumption that the extent that the peacefulness that I feel is directly correlated with the extent to which I have internalized the reality of the presence and providence of Hashem.

My first take on how to prevent the stresses of work from invading my personal and spiritual life was to resolve to keep thoughts and feelings related to work in the office, and to leave them there. That would be essentially compartmentalizing my life into a "work" box on one hand and a "personal/spiritual" box on the other hand.

The first problem with this approach is that it is, in my view, one of the major factors underlying a great deal of dishonesty in business, chillul Hashem, and inappropriate speech and socializing by religious people.

My second realization was that it is also not the goal. The goal is to go from a place where one is bringing one's work into his spiritual life to a place where he brings his spiritual life into his work life. This has nothing to do with talking to others about G-d. Rather, it means I must bring my awareness of Hashem from the beis medresh to the office. This unification and connection is the goal of our creation in this world. It is also the way to naturally transform the stress felt in the office into the same peace I sometimes feel which is connected to an awareness of G-d. Compartmentalizing life to stay sane is not the answer.

May you and I be zoche to expand our conscious awareness of Hashem's existence and providence into the most worldly aspects of our lives!


Anarchist Chossid said...

amein. i think we all struggle with this — especially people working on the so-called “white-collar” jobs.

Anonymous said...

You can be grateful that you have a degree that led to a job with a good salary, so that you can support your family. My advanced degree in Jewish Studies is not very marketable so I am stuck in a dead end job and I still have all of the challenges that you talk about.

Neil Harris said...

Yashar Koach! It's not easy and your point about not "talking to others about G-d" is key. Simply trying to stay focused on the task at hand is key.
Personally, I have found a 2 minutes "Tehillim break" every now and then can't hurt either.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! I really needed to hear that!

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Anon 10:07,

You're absolutely right. And the nisyonos of no or inadequate employment are often much harder than the nisyonos involved in working.

Nevertheless, the point of the post was not to complain or say whose nisyonos are harder than whose. Rather, the point was to discuss the right eitza to the problem.

Certified Ashkenazi, Neil, & Anon 12:52,

I hear what y'all are saying. Thank you!

Yishai said...

Amen -- thank you!

I like the idea that one should always have in mind while working that one is doing so to enable holy tasks, particularly giving tzedakah. I haven't yet figured out how to do this! A few seconds of hitbodedut numerous times each day would seem a good start, but I haven't gotten into this habit yet.

In the last few weeks I finished reading R' Shalom Arush's new book, the Garden of Riches (which I recommend, as with all his books). He stresses (among many other things) how all income comes from Hashem and the most important thing is to develop our emuna and get rid of wealth-damaging negative traits like anger.

And low and behold, about the same time, my used car broke down (the engine broke), and I then sold it for nearly nothing, causing me to lose 4 or 5 thousand dollars. I kept myself from worrying and tried to strengthen my emuna, thinking, Hashem can take money away from me just like that, and he can also give it back to me, just like that. And the day after I sell the car, my wife wins a grant for $5000!

Similarly, I read in R' Arush's book how giving tzedakah increases income. So soon after that I remembered to give some tzedakah, a pretty small amount, I think $50. Within a couple days my wife tells me she won $100 in the lottery! I think Someone is trying to teach me that R' Arush's lessons are true!

How this relates to the topic of stress at work: if it's all in Hashem's hand, we shouldn't worry about anything. Even in the midst of a busy and chaotic day at work. Of course, easier said than done.

yehudis said...

I was just reading again through Rav Yitzchak Breiter's (hy"d) "Seder HaYom" for the Breslover Chossid. Item number 18 reads as follows:
"Performing one's remunerative labor in good faith. We merit this by strengthening ourselves in faith in Divine providence. This means knowing and believing that one's livelihood is not drawn down through simple physical cause-and-effect but rather through Hashem's will and that Hashem can sustain a person without any mechanism of physical cause-and-effect at all. The fact that Hashem does send sustenance through the channels of causality is in order to test whether a person will withstand the challenges that arise through the particular framework of his labor. It is also meant to test if he will hold fast to his faith that his livelihood is not contingent on such means, but only on Hashem's will."

This applies to everyone--those working in "kodesh" as well as "chol." It applies to people being supported by their parents, communities, charitable donations, interest-earning trusts, and so on.

Feivel ben Mishael said...

The Lubavitcher Rebbe in the Maamer Basi Legani of Tof Shin Lamed mentions etzos for overcoming the bilbulim caused by tirdus haparnassa.
There is also a whole maamer specifically about this, called Mayim Rabim which is printed in Torah Ohr, and The Rebbe has a maamer with the same title from Tof Shin Lamed Ches.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Thank you for the great advice. I have also found it very helpful to do intermittent hisbodedus'n througout the day to increase my Emunah, menuchas hanefesh, and letting go of feeling a responsibility for outcomes. It's not regular though and periods go by when I don't do this. But it is a big help. Thank you for the recommendation of Rav Arush's book!

Rebb. Golshevsky,

That is such an important thing to remind one's self of. I actually read the English translation of that sefer in an airport in Germany on the way to Uman this Rosh Hashana. Thank you for reminding me of it.


If you have a scanned or online version of any of those, it would be great if you could share it. Kol tuv!

Anonymous said...

Wow; didn't know you were in big law. Followed you over from Beyond BT. I'm a soon-to-be-ger entering biglaw in the fall-scared about what the time demands will mean for me, my family, my observance. Thanks for this post.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Anon, feel free to contact me at dixieyid (at) and I'd certainly be happy to talk to you about it. Kol tuv!