Parashat Haazinu (Shabat Shuva)
Biographies and Resumes
When I was inducted as a rabbi in 1998, I received numerous gifts from friends, teachers and fellow students. It was a joyous occasion and as is the way of things, people find these times an excellent opportunity to give a present.
I received big presents, small presents, expensive ones and inexpensive ones; some dear and some not so dear. One gift was particularly special. It was the book "Hidushei Torah". This was from my friend Michael, who is, today, a Rabbi in the Hong Kong Jewish community.
At first I was very touched. I saw a beautiful cover and immediately wanted to return home in order to begin reading it. However, when I opened it, I was astounded. The book was empty – the pages were blank!
"With G-d's help -Michael told me- you will write several Torah commentaries and lessons of your own… Simply use this book."
Since then, I've written dozens of ideas for "Drashot" and "Divrei Torah".
Without a doubt, after seven years, I feel that this blank notebook was the best gift I received to set me on my way.
In the artistic world, there is a famous and painful syndrome. When architects, graphic designers, musicians and writers begin their tasks, they all have excellent creative ideas. Yet when faced with a blank page, they experience
a few minutes or hours of creative black-out – “The Blank Page Syndrome”.
It seems to me, that each year, at this time, we too receive the gift of a notebook, with empty or blank pages that we need to fill up throughout the coming year. Only we can complete the book with a nightmare or a dream, a song, a prayer or a blessing or -G-d forbid- a curse.
From time to time, we also get stuck and suffer from "The Blank Page Syndrome".
This week sees the end of the current chapter of our book – the chapter written during the past year. It is still our book, but we will no longer have the possibility of erasing or fixing any mistakes or correcting the style.
In a few hours the books in heaven above will be sealed, and our books on earth below will open on a fresh page. Again they will be inscribed with our dreams or fears, songs, prayers, blessings or -G-d forbid- curses.
Now let us take a few moments to consider the differences between a biography and a resume (curriculum vitae). How do they differ?
Above all, a resume is a marketing concept. It includes information and it is a manufactured advertising strategy. We try to sell ourselves and to elaborate the complimentary elements. No one would write a resume of his or her errors and failures.
A biography, on the other hand, exposes all our successes and failures. It reveals the things we want hide. As a resume is synthetic and subjective, so a biography is in-depth and objective.
A resume is the subjective and personal fruit of our own hands whilst a biography must be the objective fruit of another's hands.
Even though we would like to write our resumes during these Ten Days,
in fact, G-d Almighty is writing our biographies – each and every exact detail.
As long as the Heavenly Gates remain open, these can still be revised and corrected.
Yom Kippur is a great and terrible day throughout which we stand before a mirror, preparing to write the final chapters of our own autobiographies and to correct the distortions within them, honestly and earnestly with all sincerity …
…After all, a biography does not lie.