Graduation Thoughts

Tonight was a very special night as I joined the students and graduate with them. The following is the message I shared, but believe these 5 ps is relevant to any of us at any stage of life... 

In 2003 I graduated as a student in this very room from this very school. In 2003, many of you began your Moriah journey in our early learning centres. When I graduated as one of the oldest students, I would have never dreamed that 15 years later I would be graduating the youngest group of students, but tonight we go full circle. When you entered High School, I started this new role as Dean. And tonight we graduate together. There is no class I would rather be on stage with, than yours, as we complete this cycle.

In between, we have had some pretty magical experiences, many of which were on shabbatot and so were never captured on a camera, but will always live on as still-frames in our minds. From tishes to ruach sessions, deep conversations to stupid jokes, from the love game to S&P – our spiritual and physical workouts. I have watched a disparate group of individuals who were scared of what their peers thought become a collective cohort that truly cares for one another. We have learned some incredible messages along the way and I would like to distil much of what we have learned together into 5 different p’s.

P.1 – Passion:
The cream always floats to the top. Follow your passion in life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! You will spend well over 50% of your waking hours during a regular weekday thinking about, travelling to or doing your job. There is no success or amount of money that justifies you spending most of your time doing something you are not passionate about. Imagine someone is climbing up a really steep mountain. He is aching and exhausted and a friend comes by in a helicopter and asks what he is doing? He says, ‘I am trying to climb to the top of the mountain.’ ‘How long have you been climbing for?’ Asks the friend, ‘days’ replies the climber. ‘Well come in my helicopter and I can get you up there in 5 minutes.’ His friend doesn’t realise it but he is missing the point. The mistake people make is that they think the top of the mountain is the goal and the climb is the means to that goal. The goal is actually the climb; the top of the mountain is the means. If there was no top, how would the climb be directed, but the climb is the crux – the journey, not just the destination. The way to passion is to be passionate on the way. Your job should not just be a means to money, but something you find meaningful in and of itself. So pick something you are passionate about because if you do what you love then you will love what you do.

P.2 – Purpose: 
One day while traveling, King Solomon encountered two men who were transporting a heavy stone. The king stopped and asked them what they were doing. The first person replied, ‘I am carrying a heavy stone.’ The second man answered, ‘I am building the Beit Hamikdash!’ When President JFK visited the NASA space centre, he saw a caretaker carrying a broom and approached to ask what he was doing. The caretaker responded: ‘Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.’ You must have a sense of purpose in whatever you do – this will transform the most menial of tasks into a holy act, something that truly makes a difference. Don’t ask what you need from life but what life needs from you. The best place for you to be is where what you want to do meets what needs to be done – this is your purpose!

P. 3 – Planning:
Planning begins with a dream – start with the end in mind. How many people plan their holiday, from what clothes they want to bring to what places they want to see – where they want to stay and what they want to eat. But how many of these people truly plan life?
2018 is not just the year you finished – it is a historic one for our homeland, people and the State of Israel. It has been 51 years since Jerusalem was reunited following the 6-day war, 70 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, 75 years since the establishment of our school, 101 years since the Balfour declaration and 121 years since Theodore Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basil Switzerland. If you look across the breadth of these 121 years, and beyond, it’s the dreamers, visionaries and heroes that have written history and made Herzl’s dream a reality by coming up with a plan – im tirtzu ain zo agada – if you will it, it is no dream – you just need to plan!

P. 4 – People:
The greatest asset we have as a people is our people. You. I came to inspire you but you have inspired me – I came to educate you, but you have educated me. This generation coming up – selfless, altruistic, creative, proud and connected – I’ve seen you in every setting and know that the future is in good hands, your hands and I could not think of a more capable group of people. Surround yourself with the right people and a better person you will become.

P.5 – Practice:
Especially at graduation, when taking note of exceptional accomplishments, we tend to pay attention to the final achievement. Any professional in any area, including sport, business and academia, knows that the countless time and effort invested earns ultimate success rather than the final race, venture or accolade. But no one receives first prize for practicing and stadiums are not packed with spectators of practices. Gary Player, one of the greatest golfers, once recounted an anecdote:
I was practicing in a bunker down in Texas and this good old boy with a big hat stopped to watch. The first shot he saw me hit went in the hole. He said, ‘You got 50 bucks if you knock the next one in.’ I holed the next one. Then he says, ‘You got $100 if you hole the next one.’ In it went for three in a row. As he peeled off the bills he said, ‘boy, I’ve never seen anyone so lucky in my life.’ And I shot back, ‘Well, the harder I practice, the luckier I get.’
We always see the end results, but seldom do by-passers take note of the early mornings, late nights, tears, sweat and strain, that are devoted by individuals and their spouses, parents and supporters to achieve success.

So my dear class of 2018, my students, my teachers, my friends and my family, as we stand at the close of this chapter of your life with you finishing school and have just begun 5779, I daven that Hashem helps you find the passion and purpose to plan and practice with the right people. I daven that you can tap into the power of graduating in Sukkot, zman simchateinu, a time of happiness that allows you to embrace true happiness in your life. I daven that the most you ask for in your prayers is the least you receive. And in the words of Eddie Jaku, a 98-year-old holocaust thriver from our community, I daven that you have lots of love to share, lots of good health to spare and wonderful friends that care. Shana Tova Umetuka, Moadim Lsimcha and Mazel tov!