Judaism is a we-centered system, designed to help us manage time, and more importantly, behavior. Operating at its best, at the center and core of everything and everyone, is the multi faceted all inclusive Creator of It All, whose Game we play, wittingly, or not, (mostly not, for most, I imagine).
Torah and Mitzva are the operating partners that make the system “go” i.e. “holech” (as in “Halacha”, “Jewish Law”), that enable it to “work” i.e. “Avodah” (meaning “service” if with God and one another, or “slavery” if the boss is a Pharaoh). The one ingredient that metaphorically if not literally has been scarce, without which all of this remains a good idea, but not actually connected with our real world, is Role Models: people that live and carry the teaching, walking modestly with God.
Consider leaders in all the fields of employment: in sports, entertainment, governance, business, practically everywhere; how many role models can you count?
Mine, when I was a twenty one year old, was a quiet Yemenite Israeli who came to lead our Young Judaea (thank you Hadassah!) region and seemed to do nothing. Only through trial and error did I and other young leaders discover, in some hard ways, that his silence spoke volumes of wisdom, listening to learn; what he learned about us “Americans” he put to good use in showing us how to work as a team, and not try to do everything ourselves and often at the last minute. It took a number of months to understand that the quiet force who led our region was and would remain one of the most important role models in my life: teaching how to work with people, to strive to bring the best out of them.
One of the best places to find Role Models are those I call Living Role Models from our Past. I refer to varieties of tales and sagas of our Ancestors who showed the varieties of ways to limitedly or not, know and experience the Presence of the Almighty, and to translate into their lives applications of lessons learned.
Apart from my teacher, Eli Shlomi, to whom I have referred, the major role model in my life is accessible to you, as well, if you are interested in sharing him: Moses. He was a reluctant leader, which assured his service for causes beyond himself, walking modestly with God while pushing God’s Agenda, no matter how difficult or unpopular. He listened, and he learned, and he grew into an inspiring Role Model for leadership, for the Ages.
This month amidst all the ills in our world, the light of promise is kindled, promise of that elusive Role Model emerging in the highest office in the land, of all places and occupations. Is it possible that the concerns about inexperience in our new leader was his saving grace, that he didn’t need to endure many years of playing political games to rise to the top? He took a short cut, through the people, and has made it to the top with minimal beholdenness and games playing to look back on. Quite the contrary, it appears as if each step of the way incoming President Obama has walked his talk with the vision and energy that generated a political power base, an all inclusive infrastructure, defined by integrity, competence and, where appropriate, experience, and inexperience.
What stuns me about his election, and coming to know him more with each week, is that he is not only a case study in the American Dream come true; he is also a case study in Torah and Mitzva applied in secular contexts in ways that matter most for human existence and a promise of better times. Obama’s model has the look of “Shalom”, not “hello, goodbye and peace”, but “wholeness”, lots of unique parts coming together to work as a whole with dynamic and potent parts energized by a dream and purpose.
Time will tell how much of this will come true, but it is very exciting to move forward more than 3000 years and have access to a modern Role Model that generations unborn may look back to as a Living Role Model from the Past.
May these times with all their difficulties and uncertainties bring out the best in all of us, that the light of leadership at the top kindles lights in us all that we can use to do good and bring blessing into each other’s lives, as hopes and dreams transform into promise and fulfillment.
Happy secular New Year and continued blessings for 5769.