What do you do?

“What do you do?”

Often the first thing we ask when we meet someone new. For the last 50+ years, I’ve generally had a simple answer (and a very long list of different answers from busboy to soldier to entrepreneur to flight instructor/charter pilot to rabbi, etc.). But now I’m “going out on pension,” but the idea of describing myself as “retired” is somehow daunting. The word “retired” seems to conjure up images of someone who does nothing but play golf and go on cruises, and I don’t even really know how to golf. Although I am going on a cruise over Hanukkah, however I’ll be “working” as the on-board rabbi.

It is kind of strange though, that “what do you do?” is always answered by what you do to make your living, even if that is far from the most important thing you do. Why not answer “I’m raising kids” if that’s your most important thing at the moment? Or why not answer with the hobby that you love?

I’m still going to be a doing few different kinds of work. I’ll be doing some flight instructing, and maybe some fill-in rabbi work, and I’ll still do some writing for clients. I’ve got a memoir in draft form, and a friend and I just agreed to start working on a book. And I’ve got a lot of volunteer stuff, serving on the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and a couple of nonprofit boards.

But, thank God, I’ll be collecting social security and some pension funds, and won’t have to work my ass off to cover my bills. I’m going to do a lot of travel – have a three-week trip in my RV coming up at the end of this month for starters – and will split my time between my three homes: New Mexico, Israel, and my RV, and some travel elsewhere to boot. 

So I think when someone asks me “what do you do?” I’ll say, “Whatever the hell I feel like doing!” 

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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