Leadership With Heart
People never fail to amaze me in both their potential as well as in their idiosyncrasies. But the last number of weeks have really brought home that while we Jews share many commonalities, there are also quite a few quirky differences, and many of these are worth sharing.
As many of you who go to synagogue know, there is sort of a dual purpose for people going there. One, of course, is to pray to Hashem. The other is for Jewish social and communal activities. It’s basically a key way that we all stay connected to our roots. The problem is that often these two purposes overlap, and there is talking in synagogue when there is supposed to be praying. The classic example is when people are talking loudly and then turn around to everyone else to say, “Shhh, shhh!”
In the same business
Last week, after synagogue services, someone reintroduced me to their son. I reached out and shook his hand, wishing him a good Shabbos. The father then says, “Yeah, you’re both in the same business.” The son, who works in government, responds a little quizzically and asks, “Well, what business is that?” That was my cue, and I said with a big smile, “Oh, we both work in government; that’s the business of bureaucracy!” Yep, I think they got it.
Paying for our mistakes
A few weeks ago, we read the weekly Torah portion of Bechukotai that details the blessings for following Hashem’s commandments and, and G-d forbid, the curses and punishments for abandoning them. This is quite a scary reading that details all the various threats of punishment that can befall us for leaving “the derech” (G-d’s path). After the rabbi gave a musar (exhortation to better ourselves) speech following the reading, my wife said to me:
“You see, we always have to pay for our mistakes in life.”
Knowing she was 100% right but wanting to lighten things up a little, I replied:
“So why do you always make me overpay?”
I’m covered because I was a bar mitzvah.
So this past year, one of the local Chabad rabbis started up a separate monthly shteibel (little room for communal prayer) for some of the older people for whom it is otherwise difficult to get to Shabbat services. In an effort to try to spread the word and get more people to attend, I told one of my neighbors about the service and asked if he would like to attend one to try it out. He looked at me, all sort of nervous, and said:
Oh, I was bar mitzvah, and my kids were bar and bat mitzvahs, so it’s okay.
When I asked what he meant by it’s okay, he repeated that they had their bar/bat mitzvahs. When I suggested again that maybe he’d just like to try the services and added that there is a nice kiddish afterwards, he told me to send him something in writing so he could review it. Ok, message received.
In short, we Jews are a rich and diverse tapestry with people from around the world and personalities from across the spectrum. We have our “saints” and our “sinners,” but overall, the main thing is that we never stop trying!