Robert Lichtman

It Is What It Is No More 

“Change is easy!” Said no one, ever.  

Two people were discussing how their synagogue might change with the selection of a new rabbi. “I want a rabbi who will create an environment where my grandfather would feel comfortable,” said one. The second one thought, then said, “I want a rabbi who will create an environment where my grandson will feel comfortable.” Jewish leaders can value two conflicting concepts at once, a long and deep history which we tell and re-tell, and a Messianic future towards which we strive.  Thoughtful Jewish leaders bridge these worlds by engaging in change to elevate our community and our people, and to increase our opportunities to grow and to succeed.  

Change, adapt, evolve… that is what every organism does to survive. John Kennedy observed “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” Kennedy was onto something; Jewish wisdom takes us deeper.  The Hebrew words for past, present and future are comprised of the (transliterated) letters HYH, HVH, YHYH, respectively.  Considered separately they reflect three distinct dimensions of time.  Only when combined may we draw up the letters YHVH, the holiest name of God.  It is by viewing these dimensions as a singularity that we understand that journeying through all time is Godlike.   

Our tradition teaches that the gravest affront to God is idol-worship, devoting oneself and pledging one’s life to an immutable figure.  When we engage with God in prayer, we contemplate how we may change, how we can become closer to our better selves and to God. A God whose name is not stuck in “I Am What I Am,” but whose name heralds “I Will Be What I Will Be” – I will be the God you need whenever you need me. A God who brings us closer to our destiny by changing our very essence, changing our name from Jacob to Israel.   

Our brilliant and holy Hebrew language invites us as we enter a new year (shana) in the world’s reckoning of time, to review (shinun) our past and consider how we can make change (shinui) for our future. Because “It is what it is” is not the way a prophet views the world.  Our mission is to view the world and to change “what it is” into “what it can be.” 

About the Author
Robert Lichtman lives in West Orange, NJ and draws upon his long tenure of professional leadership to teach and write about strategic issues and opportunities impacting the Jewish community, and other things. He writes his own bio in the third person.
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