Nov 3, 2012

In My Not-So-Expert Opinion

As I've written several times before, I find finding one's passion to be a fascinating topic.  Back to the book I was reading about the guy who collected Yiddish books so they wouldn't be gone forever, there are a number of things that struck me about his story.  One is, he stumbled upon his passion. 

Two, he threw himself heart and soul into his work (which is what people do when they feel passionate about something).  This meant that he traveled extensively, exerted himself physically, extended himself financially, and did whatever it took to further his ambition.  Perhaps this is why he had extraordinary success because yogaata u'matzasa taamin - he singlemindedly pursued his dream and Hashem allowed him to succeed even though Hashem couldn't be thrilled with the rescue of kefira and other nonsense.  It should be noted that hundreds of the books he saved are worthwhile, such as the 700 yizkor books and Holocaust memoirs that were written right after the war.  And perhaps, indirectly, his raising awareness of the importance of Yiddish books  has inspired Jews to reconnect in some way to Yiddishkeit.

Three, he had many helpers and supporters who shared the same dream.

Fourth, he broke the rules.  After his first direct mail letter campaign which he did with a professional letter writer and was successful, he wrote subsequent fundraising letters himself.  Rather than short letters with lots of underlining and bullets, he wrote four to six pages, single spaced, writing to the members of his organization as though they were friends.  More and more members joined.

When he was ready to build a 7 million dollar center to house the books and offer all kinds of services and programs, the largest gift, up to that point, with one exception, was $10,000.  Most contributions were $18 and $36 a year.  The experts told him it couldn't be done.  They told him that 90% of the money would have to be raised from 10% of the donors and that he'd need 40% of the money before he could announce the campaign to the public. 

He did the opposite.  He wrote a letter to the members and the money poured in.  Some donors, who had been sending $18 a year, mailed checks for $50,000! The phones didn't stop ringing and within two months, through direct mail alone, he had raised over two and a half million dollars.

A project is different than parnassa which we are told is set on Rosh Hashana.  Are there people who throw themselves into projects, exerting themselves mightily, and then fail? We don't hear about them unless they finally succeed (like Rabbi Noach Weinberg who failed many times before he succeeded with Aish Ha'Torah). They don't  write books, so we don't know.  What sets those who succeed apart from those who fail? Anything that we can learn from or are there heavenly considerations that make some succeed and some fail?

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