What’s Your Avodah? (Song)

Rabbi Josh Snyder
September 22, 2013
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As I read through this month’s Shma, I was entranced by a thought expressed in Sharon Cohen Anisfeld’s piece “Rabbinic Calling: Our Work”.  Sharon expresses initial reluctance to own the sense of ‘calling’ often claimed by Christian clergy, but finds rich grounding in the concept of shlichut (mission), and ultimately that work as rabbis can be avodah, worshipful holy work, if accompanied by awareness and intentionality:

Needless to say, the task of discerning our particular purpose is not simple… it requires that we pay close attention — in every hour and season of our lives — both to our greatest struggles and our greatest strengths….  Our avodah — our deepest service in this world — flows from this awareness of and attention to what we lack and how we love.

This thought opens up the possibility that our work can and should be true avodah, in the sense of worship, service and labor.  The service of the high priest was termed the avodah as it was the truest expression of his purpose in life.  It was also a critical task that had a cosmic effect, resulting in God’s clearing the Jewish people, and perhaps the entire world, from sin.  My work, your work, is critical in making an impactful difference in the world each and every day.

In this song, I playfully but seriously expand the concept of avodah to include all work, no matter how mundane.  The refrain asks the listener to reflect on their own work and to find the holy in it, asking “What’s your avodah?”  I opt for the Yiddish rather than the Hebrew pronunciation as it offers up some choice rhymes.

“What’s Your Avodah?”

Verse 1: Doreen’s at that diner you go to

Says “Hon, can I get you a soda?”

Smiles as she serves pie a la moda

You talk and she lightens your load-a


Chorus: Each one of us has to discover

For what purpose we’ve been sent

So tell me what’s your avodah?

Awareness reveals a calling

Both our struggle and our strength

So tell me what’s your avodah?


Verse 2: Roy makes parts for your Toyota

The manager says fill the quota

He casts aside a faulty rotor

Just saved three lives in Minnesota


Chorus: Each one of us has to discover…


Bridge: Back in the Day

O when the temple stood

Taking life in sacrifice

Was worship true

But in our day

All may partake in holy work

Giving our lives to

Serving others as we do


Chorus: Each one of us has to discover….

Chords: Verse/Chorus: C G Am F; Bridge: G F C G




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Rabbi Josh Snyder is the Executive Director of Goucher College Hillel in Baltimore, MD. He attended List College's Joint Program between Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he earned degrees in Talmud and Biology. After a brief adventure as a veterinary student, Josh was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2008. In addition to immersing himself in Hillel, Josh finds balance through his wife Neely and three daughters, distance running, rock music, the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Orioles.

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