On Being Unimportant

“Moses commanded the people, ‘And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it into the blood, and strike the lintels and the two side-posts of your houses.’”

Rabbi Olan makes a simple point in this sermon of March 20, 1966, while using his typically stunning range of references: the hyssop bush from the Passover story, Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Nazism, and the story of Noah and the ark, among others.
At one point he tells a story about an “unimportant” woman, and we only find out halfway through, obliquely, that the story is atypically personal.  I found it so touching that I’d like to finish by quoting it at some length.
“Mrs. Jardone made no headlines.  She was a quiet woman who worked very hard at a settlement house where boys from poor homes came to play and grow up.  Her pay was very meager and her style of life was little better than those of us whom she helped.  Looking back now, she was one of the most important people to a number of us who still carry the spirit of the woman in us.  Her importance was the quality of her life.  The great works of the world are really done by unimportant people whose only importance is the quality of their lives.  It is the hyssop which God used, not the Cedar of Lebanon.”

Follow this link to read the sermon text.
Follow this link to listen to the audio recording.
Follow this link to watch the scrolling-text video.

*Written by Joshua F. Hirsch.*