Friday, June 17, 2011

You are the next Chief Rabbi

The Chief Rabbi introduced me to a book: Leadership on the Line and its author Professor Haifetz. The book is fascinating and I am only half way through.
In his Covenant & Conversation last week, Lord Sacks brings the fundamentals of Haifetz’s theory in relation to Moses and the Jewish people, to explain the different responses Moses had to their continued complaints, post Mount Sinai vs. Pre Mount Sinai:
“Heifetz distinguishes between technical challenges and adaptive challenges. A technical challenge is one where you have a problem and someone else has the solution. You are ill, you go to the doctor, he diagnoses your condition and prescribes a pill...
Adaptive challenges are different. They arise when we are part of the problem. You are ill, you go to the doctor, and he tells you: I can give you a pill, but the truth is that you are going to have to change your lifestyle...
In Exodus, Moses is called on to exercise technical leadership. The Israelites are enslaved? God sends signs and wonders; manna from heaven…water from a rock. When they have a problem, the leader, Moses, together with God, provides the solution. The people do not have to exert themselves at all.
In the book of Numbers, however, the equation has changed. The Israelites have completed the first part of their journey. They have left Egypt, reached Sinai, and
made a covenant with God. Now they are on their way to the Promised Land. Moses’ role is now different...He has to get the people to change, to exercise responsibility, to learn to do things for themselves while trusting in God, instead of relying on God to do things for them.”
In this week’s torah portion, Shelach, it only gets more troubling, now the leaders of the tribes bash Israel after their reconnaissance mission
We cannot go up, to which G-d finally says, that’s it: In this desert, your corpses shall fall...because you complained against Me... You shall not come into the Land.
But how could the spies, who were ‘men of distinction’, behave in such a way? And all the Jews followed suit? When did it all go wrong?
Interestingly, here too we see the Jewish people looking to continue to dwell under the technical leadership of Moses and the clouds of glory, rather than perform the divine mission they had been charged with weeks earlier at Sinai.
The Kabbalah explains that the problem was one of excess spirituality. They wished to continue their experience of life and Godliness undisturbed by material distractions, without the need to plough, sow and reap, pay taxes and commerce. In the desert, they were protected by clouds of glory, fed the Manna from heaven, all the time Praying, meditating and studying Torah. They were unwilling to leave the spiritual utopia for an earth-bound life.
They failed to establish a two-phased program: an initial state of pure holiness followed by an assumption of material labours.
On the flip side: Each day of our life we must begin our day with prayer and Torah before crossing over into the workday and embarking on the journey through the material world
Man is empowered to make heaven on earth, to make holy an adjective of land.
With all the recent discussion as to the next Chief Rabbi, I often wonder how Lord Sacks translates all of this in to his own celebrated tenure.
One thing I know: we are challenged not to rely solely on the Rabbis and leaders to be our spiritual technicians; we must adapt it in to our own lives as well. Shabbat Shalom.

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