“What is certain is that you love bringing things back to life. It is a wonderful feeling to identify the undermining factors, eradicate them, and restore something to its true glory.” Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0 (Gallup Press, 2007, p. 153)
Strengthsfinder 2.0 is a popular assessment tool for identifying and applying an individual’s strengths. The book is based on the premise that we should spend more time in our professional lives building upon our strengths than trying to overcome our weaknesses. Everyone loves the story of an underdog overcoming overwhelming odds to achieve, but that model of success is not usually the best application of our resources! The quote above refers to the person who possesses a “restorative” talent, the ability to resuscitate and rekindle the vitality of relationships. Indeed, institutions can be revitalized; relationships can be resuscitated. This can only happen, however, when the right “match” is achieved—when a restorer is brought into a relationship where restoration is needed.
As an adjunct lecturer at the Jewish Theological Seminary, I work with students who are preparing to transition into new professional settings. Among my goals is to help budding cantors and rabbis recognize their own strengths, and identify the professional opportunities where they will experience fulfillment and success, and feel valued for what they bring to the task. Not every available opportunity is the right opportunity for every candidate. In the moments of rejection, we learn about the nature of relationships, the needs of our potential partner, and our own strengths and talents.
This week’s haftarah for Shabbat Hagadol, from the prophet Malachi, tells us that a day of restoration is approaching. The children of Israel seemingly stand back to back with God, too ashamed in their imperfection to face the Divine, perhaps anxious about the prospect of confronting their strained relationships. The prophet announces that God will provide a restorer in Elijah, one who will reconcile the open and eager hearts of parents and children to each other.
Passover, the season of restoration is once again upon us. Many of us are headed home at this time of year—children to parents, families to one another, even institutions to their missions–perhaps anxious about the prospect of confronting those with whom we have strained relationships. Not everyone is cut out for every task. Perhaps there is someone among us who is particularly “restorative” by nature, who will restore our hearts to each other?
Who among us is prepared to play the role of Elijah?
Rabbi Craig Scheff