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Rabbi encourages to work with integrity

As a pulpit rabbi, I am privileged to officiate at dozens of funerals per year.  I witness first-hand how families and friends assess the lives of the recently deceased.

I share the sentiment that you have likely heard a million times: on someone’s deathbed nobody says “I wish I spent more time at the office.”  But, I have also seen how a person who works with integrity and character changes the world for good.

Without question, as a culture, Americans are addicted to work.  However, even the person who has a “perfect work-life balance” (I would love to meet that person!), there is still a lot of time at work.

When we are seeking balance in our lives, the question shouldn’t only be “How much do we work?” but also “How do we work?”  Do we work with integrity?  Do we treat our coworkers with dignity?  Are we considered men and women of our word?  Do people feel valued in our workplace?

In the Jewish tradition, the Talmud describes the six questions that a person will be asked when trying to get into heaven.  The first question is: “Did you do business with honesty and integrity?” (Babylonian Talmud 31a)

It is easy to be a “holy person” when praying in a mosque, church or a synagogue.  It is easy to be a “holy person” when feeding the homeless, volunteering at a boys and girls club or driving the elderly.  It is far harder to “be holy” in the workplace.  It is not uncommon to hear the phrase “business is business,” which seems to be a shorthand for “standard morality doesn’t apply here.”

It is not uncommon to think about who will come to our birthday parties – but we rarely think who will come to our funerals.  Nobody sends out an invitation for a funeral.  Evite and Eventbrite have not yet invaded the funeral business.  The only reason individuals attend a funeral is if the deceased impacted their lives.  This impact comes from the goodness they experience — often times at the workplace.  The customers and the buyers, the bosses and the supervisees, the coworkers and the colleagues — after our family, these are the people we spend the most hours with.

Nobody has come back to tell me what is actually asked when a person is trying to get into heaven, but I have witnessed when people say their final farewells to lost loved ones.

I have seen it for teachers, and I have seen it for major commercial developers — people come out to say goodbye to those ones who touched their lives.  At the end of the day — or at the end of our days — it doesn’t matter what we did to make a living, but it matters significantly how we did to make a living.

This article first appeared on Alana Muller’s Professional Networking blog, CoffeeLunchCoffee.com.