Sipping from Life's Precious Goblet

This morning I am penning my final blog post from Atlanta. In a few short hours, the moving truck will pull up to transport our possessions to New Jersey, our new home. Even though my tenure as Head of School of a local day school ended a few weeks back, the move will represent yet another measure of closure, another step in our relocation and my new career pathway as a coach and consultant.

Our three year period in Atlanta was filled with many of the predictable highs and lows, and with some that we could never have been predicated. As I was thinking of something to help frame the experience, an ancient story came to mind.

The incident took place approximately 60 years following the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem (c. 130 CE). The seat of the nasi (prince) had been recently reestablished, and Rabban Gamaliel II had assumed his rightful place as the Jewish leader. However, due to some strong, onerous decision making (designed to maintain a unified nation at a time of general upheaval and the formation of messianic sects throughout the country), Rabban Gamaliel was deposed by his peers.

A few possible successors were discussed. One, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, was particularly young (18 years old) and inexperienced.  When he consulted his wife, she raised two concerns. The first was his age. How would the other rabbis respect such a young man? The Talmud (Berachos 27b-28a) records that a miracle occurred and 18 strands of white hair appeared in his beard. His wife’s other concern was a fear that he would be removed much as his predecessor was. Rabbi Eleazar replied by saying “let a man use a precious goblet for a day and then let it break.” The meaning of his answer is that he would enjoy it for the moment and see what happened. If the end was not as he wished, he could at least refer back to a period in which he sat as the Jewish prince, able to assist many others in a variety of ways. He then assumed the position of nasi.

Rabbi Eleazar’s reply has resonated with me ever since I first heard it. It has helped me to frame all of life’s experiences in the most positive way possible. It has allowed me to realize that there are no givens in life, that things could change at a moment’s notice. For this reason, we must appreciate every day and opportunity for what it is, and not worry about what will happen if things (appear to) go sideways on us.

As chief executive of a 350 student school, I had the distinct privilege of overseeing and in many ways assisting the growth of a well-established institution of learning. Sure, there were some tough moments, the things that we really don’t sign up for. But there were all many great moments. MANY great moments. And there was the general, ongoing experience, three years of connecting, relating, growing, inspiring and energizing, for me and those whose lives I was privileged to touch in some way. And that is what I will choose to remember most and gain inspiration from in the years ahead.

I consider myself to be deeply blessed. I have had many opportunities to be a difference maker, as an educator and administrator. This was certainly the largest and most significant opportunity to date. I will surely miss it, but also look forward to taking the next step in my career, in which I feel I can be impactful in an exciting new way. I will always treasure my time in Atlanta, and hope to sip, slowly and with great fulfillment, out of the new precious goblets that God places before me in the months and years ahead.   

Farewell, Dixie, and thanks for the memories!


Naphtali HoffComment