A few weeks ago was my family company’s 70th anniversary celebration. I, of course, grew up with the knowledge that I was the great-granddaughter of the person who built this company out of the ground that is still being run by my grand uncle. Growing up, my experience walking around the office was of being known and greeted by all the employees. I was one of the “family owners.”
While listening to all the speeches being made during the party, I couldn’t help but be incredibly proud of how far the company has come. In truth, I don’t have much to do with it – I am after all a violinist, and there isn’t much space for a violinist in the corporate setting. But I grew up regularly hearing about the company and what it was up to, ran around the hallways of the office, and got to meet most of the employees throughout my life.
But that evening above everything else, what I felt was pride for my great grandfather and grandfather who started the company that is still going strong 70 years later. I remembered the stories I was told when the company was in its infancy. But mostly I remembered story after story of my grandfather’s intelligence, keen business sense, and his incredible way of dealing with business partners here and abroad. And though it is true all of the time, at that specific moment, I felt very strongly how proud I was to be related to him, and how I believe I’ve learned a thing or two about work ethics from him, both from knowing him in person and being embedded in my DNA.
The next day as I was reading through the Torah portion, a thought hit me and I texted my friend as quick as I could type: “Rivky, tell me… what does it feel like to know that you’re a descendant of the patriarchs and the matriarchs?”
Just as I was bursting with pride for being related to my grandfather, I could only imagine what it would feel like to be related to the incredible patriarchs and matriarchs. Knowing that Sarah imeinu is your great, great, great (a hundred times removed) grandmother, and that Yaakov avinu was your great, great (a hundred times removed) grandfather. Knowing that the incredible spiritual traits and middot possessed by these legendary men and women are still coursing through your veins, in your DNA and that you have the potential – and even the advantage! – to develop them also.
I thought about what it would feel like to know that you are a child of the G-d who built this world from nothing, and walking around knowing everyone knows who you are: one of the “family owners.”
But, also knowing as one of the “family owners,” you’re expected to carry yourself a little differently. You aren’t reigning over the other “employees,” but you need to have a little more confidence in your step. People look up to you as one of the leader figures, and leaders need that little extra presence. All the extra things that are required of you aren’t random, extra “burdens” – rather, they are little things that force you to develop more discipline (among other things), and therefore “train” you better for your “role” to play. You may have not chosen to be born the way you were, but the choice is yours to step up and play the role as best as you can.
I’d always been more of the shy type. I hesitate a lot speaking in front of a crowd, and I doubt myself ten too many times. But since that evening, I’ve been holding my chin up a little higher. And when I’d find myself in situations I’d normally cower from, I’d remember my grandfather, stand up taller, and – at least on the outside – confidently face the situation.
To my Jewish friends reading this, I know you all grew up being told this on a regular basis but I hope you take a minute again now to remember the genes that you carry in your DNA: that you are descended from Avraham, Sarah, Yitzchak, Rivka, Yaakov, Rochel, and Leah. You are royalty! More is expected of you because more people are watching you – but you also have the privilege of being “in the family.” Hold that chin up high and make your ancestors proud. 🙂