Some days ago, I encountered a Facebook post by Rabbi Pinchas Taylor, which I very much needed that day. Rabbi Taylor said: “Often when your path is more difficult, your calling is higher”. I found those words to be a huge relief that day but also food for thought.
What does it mean though that “your calling is higher”? I believe some people would think about success in the terms our contemporary society is constructed. It is right. To have a family, to start a company, or to survive despite all the odds – it is also right! There is no wrong definition of a higher calling, especially since it will be something different for each of us. After making this disclaimer, I think I am ready to introduce to you several life stories with “twists and turns”.
When visiting drugstores we always see many small stalls filled in with the products of many brands. One of them is Max Factor. The brand was founded by Maksymilian Faktorowicz (also known as Max Factor Sr.), a Polish Jew born in Zdunska Wola. Maksymilian’s family could not afford any formal education for their four children. That is why Maksymilian had to start working when he was eight, and his first job was as an assistant to a dentist and a pharmacist. When he was nine, he was an apprentice to a wig maker in Lodz, Poland.
This experience enabled him to get a position at Anton’s of Berlin (a leading hairstylist and cosmetics creator). Later on, when Maksymilian was fourteen, he was working at Korpo wig maker and cosmetician at the Imperial Russian Grand Opera in Moscow. Having all those experiences, he opened his own cosmetics store where he sold hand-made makeup and wigs. He was also appointed the official cosmetics expert for the royal family in Russia. In 1904, he moved to the USA because of his concern about increasing anti-Jewish prosecution.
All early steps taken helped Maksymilian with building the empire in the States where he first owned a wig store in Los Angeles, and later upon experimenting with various compounds he first created cosmetics that were meant for motion pictures. In the 1920s, he introduced his cosmetics to the wider public, marketing them with the slogan that every girl could look like a movie star using Max Factor cosmetics.
Albert Einstein is undoubtedly an inspirational figure as well. It is well-known that he was a troublesome student to his teachers, and his parents had no faith in him. However, this is only partially true because Einstein’s problems with the school system started in the Luitpold Gymnasium in Munich (secondary school) when he found the rigid school system unbearable. From a very young age, Albert was an exceptionally gifted student to solve math and physics problems, he also taught himself algebra and Euclidean geometry at the age of twelve. Einstein graduated from ETH in Zürich when he was 21, but could not find any teaching position which led him to become a worker in the Swiss Patent Office.
By the age of 26, Albert defended his PhD thesis and also by the age of 28 became a recognizable scientist. Albert Einstein’s love life was complicated, and despite being married twice he had multiple affairs. In 1921, he was awarded the Nobel prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”.
In 1933, upon the realization that the German government had passed the law barring Jews from holding any official positions, including teaching at universities, he tried to help fellow Jewish scientists trapped in Germany. He even talked to Winston Churchill about the issue, and Jewish scientists were then moved to British universities. In 1952, he was offered a presidential position in Israel but he declined.
The last interesting person is Gidon Lev. Gidon was born in Czechoslovakia and was only six years old when he and his family were transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1941. Twenty-six of his family members perished in the Holocaust, including his father. Gidon was ten years old when the camp was liberated, and he was part of the 1% of children who survived. Later in life, he and his mother immigrated to the United States and Canada.
In 1959, Gidon arrived in Israel and settled in Kibbutz Hazorea. He served in the Israeli Defense Forces both in the Six-Day War and the War of Attrition in 1967. In 2021, Gidon opened his TikTok account where he posts videos as part of Holocaust education. A similar account of Gidon’s can be also found on Instagram. Gidon is 87 years old right now, and he is still going strong!
Three people, three different stories, all of them successful. Even in the life of those so-called “successful” people, there are ups and downs, better and worse days, weeks, months and years. Overall, hardships are an important part of our life that leads to self-development. The most important thing is not to give up on our dreams and passions and to actively seek our calling (if we do not know what that is yet!). The rest will settle itself around us, even if sometimes it may look like an incredible mess.
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