When someone asks me to pray for them or their dear ones, I always emphasize my willingness and eagerness to add my prayers to their efforts with the understanding that their prayers are possibly more effective in terms of their needs because they are more directly involved in the matters they are addressing.
In my capacity as rabbi I feel the responsibility and opportunity to help each and every person find their own way in relationship with God in becoming more effective partners with God and people in elevating Life.
What is unique and wonderful about Judaism is its mandate for each of us to grow as leaders in how we live our lives and help others along their paths and ways. That is the meaning of Bat/Bar Mitzvah: that a young person is empowered to take to heart the teachings of Torah and accept their responsibilities in becoming significant forces for good and blessing. Thus, the purpose of the ceremony is not to put on a memorable show of ritual celebration. More importantly, it demonstrates to themselves and their community skills that allow them to be confident and competent participants in Jewish life and to reflect attitudes (in their drash/teaching) of sensitivity and caring that will indicate the Jewish future and the world’s future is in good hands.
All too often, it is hard to find leadership role models in areas one would hope to find them: i.e. governance of our society. How easy to e disillusioned with our leaders mired in power politics.
Last month my brother in law announced his candidacy for Congress in the Tampa area of Florida. He is presumed to be a refreshing candidate because he does not come from a political background; how sad to see that as refreshing. His background is as an investigative broadcast journalist who has uncovered the underbelly of many of the wrongs in our society which he idealistically hopes to do his best to right. One reason I mention this is that one of our congregants when told of his entering the ring cautioned my wife to urge him to withdraw. Why?
Because he has memorable experiences working in the political arena in D.C. and he assured her that her brother’s moving there, with the best of intentions, will destroy him and his integrity. How sad to consider that an idealistic would-be leader ought not to go that way because the political process of life in our nation’s seat of governance will destroy him and his ideals…not very encouraging for the future of government and the development of leadership in our society.
Years ago I realized it was difficult to find role models to point out to our children, apart from parents, hopefully, and teachers. From a Jewish point of view it gave me renewed appreciation for our Torah, for in our sacred scripture we can find what I call living role models from our past, with probably the greatest of them all, Moses.
Starting on October 20, as we launch a new year of monthly Sunday morning studies, I will be exploring with you Living Role Models from our Past. We will start with Psalm 92, the Sabbath Psalm, which I referenced on Yom Kippur, as a springboard to this program of studies. The Sabbath Psalm contextualizes the purpose and importance of the Shabbat in helping us sort through the challenges we face in the world and issues of leadership that we must engage to do our part to turn this world in a better direction. In successive months we will look at Moses and other Jewish leaders from our past to glean insights into leadership that escape the awareness of too many of our elected officials. In so doing we will be able to better appreciate Judaism’s ways of emphasizing the importance of bringing leadership values and skills into the lives of our children that they may be better equipped to do more in bringing the important principles of life into being.
As we emphasize in our new joint program Common Ground, which I hope all CBI members will partake in, there are two kinds of power: the more common one is what seems to dominate the political scene: hierarchical power with leaders striving to dominate and control others; the one that Judaism (and Common Ground) subscribes to is Relational Power, any and all means to empower one another to do good with each other in building a healthier community and world.
I look forward to exploring these principles in our studies as well as at services when we bring to light the Torah’s principles of God’s empowering us as partners in leadership in bringing a repaired world into being.