9 Kislev 5779 / Saturday, November 17, 2018 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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To a freelancer, every assignment is a gift. It means we have something to feed our family with this week, or month. We have a million reasons to be grateful for what we have…


"Dov, that's what we have decided and it's final."


"I have been doing this for a long time and my experience tells me that it is not in your best interests."


"Enough. We've decided, now you do it. "


I fumed. First, I sent out an email to my supervisor, then I planned a meeting with the department head.


All the while something didn't feel right. I haven't put up a fight about a decision I didn't like in a long time. In fact, the last time I made such a stand in any professional environment was the last time I had full time work. There is something about permanence that makes you feel invincible.


For the past year, I have been a freelancer. If someone thought a different course of action was best, I would advise him or her of the alternatives, and let them make their decision. If they insisted, I relented.


Despite the most common type of work being full time, life most resembles a freelance gig:


1. It isn't permanent. When sitting in my office, and commanding my department, even my people, it's easy to live on the assumption that it will be forever. We act like this situation will never change. In Chovot HaLevavot we are warned not to go through life as if it will be forever, complacent in thinking that we will always be healthy, we will always be secure, we can always put off improving, learning Torah, or doing an extra act of kindness off another day. Freelance starts and stops. No task, project, even role is permanent.


2. Tight deadlines and no extensions. When a company needs something fast, it calls the one freelancer who will do whatever it takes to get it done on time. If it's not you, they will call someone else. In freelancing, you cannot push deadlines back or it's over. If they ask for too much, you have to work harder. This is life. You've got to get your work done in the time allotted, there are no extensions. I have personal memories from 40 years ago that feel like it happened yesterday. If I make it to 90, Hashem Willing, I will remember things that happened almost a century prior that felt like it occurred minutes past. Life moves in the blink of an eye. The time we have to collect as many mitzvot as we can is limited.


3. You wield no political power whatsoever. A freelancer has nothing to offer the people in his office. If you do a full-timer favor, there is no guarantee that you will be around long enough to get paid back. If you make just one enemy, it's enough for someone to decide you are not worth the hassle and you won't be back the next morning. A freelancer cannot "bribe" a co-worker or manager with something outside of his work because he has nothing to offer. Hashem never accepts bribes. We have nothing to offer Him outside of the work He requires of us: Torah, mitzvot, improving our character, and acts of kindness.


4. You only get paid for what you accomplish. A full-timer gets paid by the week or the month. He gets paid to eat his lunch. He gets paid to gossip at the water cooler. He even gets paid to go to the bathroom. The freelancer only gets paid for the work he produces. All things not directly related to work, he does on his own dime. Hashem doesn't reward us for sleeping late, watching sports, reading nonsense in the newspaper, watching television, seeing movies, and well over 98% of what we do online. He "pays" us for the mitzvot we do. Each of us has an angel that records what we do every second of our life, and reports to the Heavenly Court of Judgment when we die. Every second! The time we will get reward for will be calculated to the precise second – and not a moment more!  


5. Any day can be your last. Most companies have a process for letting someone go. There are usually rumors or warnings that precede a full-timer’s departure. In freelancing, none of that applies. You can be sent off with no notice, no warning, and no reason. This is life. At any moment, it can end. You have to treat every day like it's your last chance to do something productive.


6. You have to be on your best behavior at all times. A boss, or employee who feels secure in his job may go full tilt in office politics or drama, but never a freelancer. Even if there is a day where you come to work feeling angry, tired, or annoyed about something, you have to bite your lip and have a positive attitude. This is life: Joy is a commandment. Bad days happen as tests to strengthen our joy muscle. We must be happy under all circumstances by seeing everything that happens in our life as a direct message from our loving Father. If the King of kings spoke to you every moment of the day, wouldn't you be happy?


7. You must be very, very humble. When the client wants it a certain way, you have to do it. If you are absolutely sure that this is the worst way to do it, if they are insistent, you must bend. You have to find a way to make it work, even if you don't think it will.  


You have to go against your instincts and do it someone else's way.


Wouldn't it be easier if I could work 21 days straight, and take a 3-day vacation, instead of dropping everything come Friday evening? Isn't it more productive to start work at 6am, and not divert hours of my time praying and learning Torah? What if I feel the right woman for me isn't Jewish?


These may be extreme examples, but how many times to we quietly say to ourselves, "Why do we have to do it like that? I think there is a better way to get it done." The Divine Service means, as Rabbi Lazer Brody puts it, "Setting aside logic and trusting Hashem."


It means doing things the way our Client wants them done.


I can't tell you how many times I thought a client was nuts for wanting to do it that way, only to discover that for her specific company, industry, or even her market position within the industry, the way they directed me was perfect for what needed to be done.


We must realize that Hashem knows every event going on in the world. He knows the past, the present, and the future. He knows all of our thoughts and the thoughts of everyone else. He knows what lies beyond life. When He tells us to do something that our instincts say is not the best course of action, it is up to us to listen to our Client.


That could be why our Sages tell us that the key to wisdom is fear.


In fact, this is exactly what happened at my most recent job. After emailing my supervisor and speaking with the department head, I realized that I had spent the last hour making a complete fool of myself. I was 100% wrong.


Had I approached this job with the attitude that I was just a long-term freelancer, I would have bit my lip and understood everyone's logic before doing anything arrogant or hasty.


I can only imagine how many blessings in life I have passed up with this attitude, and how many blessings await anyone who discovers the key to life is in submission and listening.


Be grateful for every assignment. If a freelancer doesn't have work, he doesn't have income. A full-timer can be sick, on vacation, or taking some unpaid leave where he has the security of a job waiting for him. He can live with the security that all his needs are met for the foreseeable future.


To a freelancer, every assignment is a gift. It means we have something to feed our family with this week, or month. We have a million reasons to be grateful for what we have today, because there is no guarantee for tomorrow.


The Jews in the desert had the same challenge. For the "work week," they were given just enough manna to last the day. By nighttime, the cupboard was bare. There was no food in each home. When the manna descended, it was a blessing that we wouldn't go hungry today.


The Book of Genesis begins with Hashem placing sprouts throughout the Garden of Eden. For them to become edible plants, Adam would have to pray to Hashem for rain. Every bite of food we eat, every blessing for sustenance comes directly from Hashem, and demands our gratitude as if we have nothing without it.


* * *

Dovber Halevi authors the website http://www.abetterlifeinisrael.com/. On it you can find the logistics on How to Enjoy a Better Life in Israel.

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