The Jewish teachings about work are very clear. In the ancient words of the Jewish sage Rabbi Natan, “Just as Israel is commanded to keep the Sabbath, Israel is commanded to work.” But what type of work should a person do? Work that brings them the most money? Or work that brings them the most fulfillment and life satisfaction?
The Talmud is very clear on this and teaches that, quote “a person’s work has to be beneficial to society. One who earns his living by following an occupation which makes no constructive contribution to the well-being of others is declared by the sages to be so unreliable that he is disqualified from acting as a witness in a court of law. unquote”
From this, we learn that one, a person must work in order to be independent and self reliant, and two, we learn that for a person to be trusted, their work must be beneficial to society.
Yet, the state of work in the 21st Century paints a very different picture of what is important and I am not sure if enough people are making decisions about their careers based on their own personal wellbeing and life satisfaction?
A recent study showed that in 2017, 50% of people were satisfied with their jobs but in 1987, 61% were satisfied with their work. There are many factors at play here, but the important takeaway for us is that while 50 percent are satisfied with their work, a whole other 50% are unsatisfied.
I think it is unrealistic to think that everyone is always satisfied with their work life, but it’s clear that the every other person you know is unsatisfied with their current work situation. Half of you are spending too much of your time unhappy which likely has a negative effect on your health, your colleagues, your friends, and your family.
I wonder how many of those unhappy at work could benefit from following the Jewish approach to work life? Where work fulfillment comes from achieving personal independence and doing something that is beneficial to society. Is this the case for you? Did you make decisions about your career – are you making decisions about your career based on doing something beneficial to society?
For those of you who are unsatisfied at work, finding another job could be a solution, or perhaps it’s more than your job? Perhaps it has do with finding the life that wants to live through you and aligning your work life with your life calling – and make your calling your career.