On the Death (and Life) of Martin Gilbert

February 15, 2015

By Seth Mandel

Early in my career in Jewish journalism, I was working on a column about the ideological considerations of interwar Zionists’ appeals to Western leaders. Winston Churchill obviously figured in this story, and so I knew immediately the best person to reach out to for input: Martin Gilbert. His response to that inquiry always stuck with me, and it’s only added to the sadness of the news today that Gilbert has passed away.

I emailed Gilbert my question. He responded with a warm note and emailed me a digital copy of a page of his manuscript for his book Churchill and the Jews. The book was already published (indeed it was already in paperback), so he could have referred me to the book. Had he wanted to be even more helpful, he could have given me a page number. But he sent me the page from the manuscript that he thought might be of the most help to my column in part because the page had his own notes on it. He was giving me not just the finished copy, but the thought process that led to it.

A few things struck me about the exchange. The first was that Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill’s official biographer, had essentially volunteered to do my research for me. The second was that I had never met nor spoken to Gilbert before that, so it wasn’t as though he was taking this effort for a friend. Then I realized just how generous he must be with actual friends and colleagues.

But far more important for Gilbert’s legacy was what it said about his approach to historiography. Martin Gilbert had a rare combination of intellectual ambition and personal humility. On an issue related to Winston Churchill and also to the events leading up the founding of the State of Israel–two monumental subjects of the 20th century–there was absolutely no question that Gilbert was the man to ask. That is an accomplishment in itself. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Choose a Career

January 15, 2013

by Rabbi Benjamin Rapaport SelfDiscovery-fullCover_resized

Whatever career we choose determines how we spend a large part of our lives. Work that really fits us, that taps into our reservoir of potential and challenges us to become our best, can make all the difference in our quality of life.

It is encouraging to know that the struggle to find a good match between who we are and the work we do is not a new one. Bachye Ibn Pakudei, in his classic work entitled “Duties of the Heart,” written around the year 1040 in Zaragosa, Spain, deals with this issue and offers a brilliant, five-piece framework for finding a career that really fits. Here it is (Duties of the Heart, The Gate of Trust, Ch. 3):

  1. Does it pull you? Just like a cat is drawn to mice, and a hawk is attracted to birds, so too within each of us is a nature and a desire for a particular livelihood.
  2. Does it match your resources? A bird that captures fish possesses a long beak and extended thighs. A lion, that tears apart other animals for food, has powerful teeth and claws. So too, our physiology, and character is more suited for certain types of work than others.
  3. Are you willing to invest? Each profession has its hurdles to overcome, its entering price that needs to be paid before it can be practiced. Medicine requires many years of study. Professional sports require years of serious training. When considering what you want to do, ask yourself if you are willing to pay the price it takes.
  4. Do you have a desire in it? Passion may not always be there, but for you to love your work that level of vitality, of absorption, needs to be there at least some of the time.
  5. Emunah – translated loosely as faith. Keep the faith that once all the above line up and you have committed yourself to whatever path it is, that you will meet with success. Don’t get derailed the first time you get challenged, or even knocked down. Dig deep and stay the course.

If we want the pride of great work, we need to choose our path with these in mind. An easy way to remember these five pieces is Read the rest of this entry »


How to Choose a Career

January 15, 2012

by Rabbi Benjamin RapaportSelfDiscovery-fullCover_resized

Whatever career we choose determines how we spend a large part of our lives. Work that really fits us, that taps into our reservoir of potential and challenges us to become our best, can make all the difference in our quality of life.

It is encouraging to know that the struggle to find a good match between who we are and the work we do is not a new one. Bachye Ibn Pakudei, in his classic work entitled “Duties of the Heart,” written around the year 1040 in Zaragosa, Spain, deals with this issue and offers a brilliant, five-piece framework for finding a career that really fits. Here it is (Duties of the Heart, The Gate of Trust, Ch. 3):

  1. Does it pull you? Just like a cat is drawn to mice, and a hawk is attracted to birds, so too within each of us is a nature and a desire for a particular livelihood.
  2. Does it match your resources? A bird that captures fish possesses a long beak and extended thighs. A lion, that tears apart other animals for food, has powerful teeth and claws. So too, our physiology, and character is more suited for certain types of work than others.
  3. Are you willing to invest? Each profession has its hurdles to overcome, its entering price that needs to be paid before it can be practiced. Medicine requires many years of study. Professional sports require years of serious training. When considering what you want to do, ask yourself if you are willing to pay the price it takes.
  4. Do you have a desire in it? Passion may not always be there, but for you to love your work that level of vitality, of absorption, needs to be there at least some of the time.
  5. Emunah – translated loosely as faith. Keep the faith that once all the above line up and you have committed yourself to whatever path it is, that you will meet with success. Don’t get derailed the first time you get challenged, or even knocked down. Dig deep and stay the course.

If we want the pride of great work, we need to choose our path with these in mind. An easy way to remember these five pieces is with the acronym PRIDE:

P – does it pull you?
R – does it match your resources?
I – are you willing to make the investment
D – do you engage in it with desire?
E – do you have faith, emuna?

Four Common Obstacles

Knowing how to choose well though is not enough. We need to Read the rest of this entry »