Michael J. Lawrence
Nonprofit Parasha - On Leadership, Philanthropy & Community

Corona Impact: Butterflies In Our Hands – Emor

Companies and organizations globally are going through major upheaval including an arguably unprecedented strain on budget and resources as they reassess in the gloomy shadow of the corona virus that has swept across borders, communities and industries.

As unemployment figures skyrocket and many talented, hardworking professionals face uncertainty up close each day now, employers and leaders hold precious lives and livelihoods in their hands. It’s not a responsibility they asked for nor expected to face in such an unforgiving fashion in 2020. But often big surprises come in small packages – so small you cannot see them coming.

Comes the Torah this week and perhaps sharpens that responsibility which rests with us as employers, leaders and managers. Quite often life’s best practices often appear together in the Torah – intentionally paired. Don’t do this please and yes, when you’re not doing that, do this instead. That would be a good thing.

Case in point, this week’s Torah portion Emor at Chapter 22, Sentence 32.

“You shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among the Children of Israel”. One sentence, two crucial directives.

As we work we outwardly do good by people, do good for people, help those in need, we create and innovate and bring solutions – in business, tech, social enterprise and to our communities’ vulnerable. These are noble feats and each one important in its own arena. What we do openly, publicly as Jews, no less so as part of global citizenry, is valuable and indispensable as we work to improve and secure the human condition in the fields in which we contribute and excel.

We do without a doubt sanctify His name, and for that matter our company’s reputation and value, our organization’s name and standing.

And yet, the first half of this sentence in our Parasha this Shabbat begs attention. What we are reading here is about not cutting corners.

When we are doing chesed (kind acts) to others, when we are bringing innovation, change and betterment out into an all-at-once thriving, modern, growing but fractured, splintered world, we must make sure that out of the public view, behind closed doors at home and in the workplace, when we search for solutions to shrinking wiggle room and increasingly limited resources, that we always consider the butterflies we hold in our hand – employees, their families and beyond.

The well-known story goes of the man who tried to ask a question to a wise Rabbi that he could not possibly answer correctly. With a closed fist he lays down the challenge: “I have a butterfly in my hand – is it alive or is it dead”? Answered the Rabbi to the other’s astonishment, knowing too well that a tightening or loosening of the fist would be the determining factor: “It’s all in your hands – HaKol Beyadecha

Indeed, now more than for quite some time, we hold our most valuable butterflies in our hands. Companies and organizations can be leaders in their fields and in their positive impact on the world around us. Yet in the way they look after their own, the sensitivity to which they relate to staff hesitant to return to routine during corona uncertainty and as financial realities creep up on senior leadership, this is the time we can all exhibit full understanding of the importance of these twinned directives in one special Torah sentence.

No easy task, no easy answers but certainly our eyes and ears must be on the look out for opportunities to ensure we sanctify His good name, our good names, calm stormy waters and avoid any kind of unnecessary and avoidable hardship, distress and desecration.

About the Author
Michael Lawrence has been Financial Resource Development Unit Head & Chief Development Officer at the Jewish Agency for Israel since 2016.
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