I have used the parable of the boiled frog throughout my career and, while I certainly didn’t coin the phrase, I have become associated with it in certain nonprofit/community circles. For those who don’t know it, the parable states that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump right out. But if you put a frog into a pot of room temperature water and slowly heat it up, the frog will have no idea that it’s being cooked.
There are three main lessons that I usually draw from this parable. The first is that change needs to be gradual. Change can’t be a light switch operation where the only choices are either on or off. Instead change must be gradual and allow for adjustment. We need to measure our change and understand how much is enough. Too much of anything, including change, is never a good thing. The goal is to keep the frog(s) from jumping out of the pot.
The second lesson is to always keep an eye on the small changes in your environment, because in the end, we are all frogs in a pot. As frogs, we better be mindful of our surroundings and understand not only the trajectory of change, but the impact of that change on our well being. Basically, we need to be astute enough to see the warning signs and either jump out of the pot or make other accommodations to ensure our longevity. Sometimes it is obvious that the water is heating up or at a rolling boil, but what if the heating process happens incrementally, over time, would you still notice…before it’s too late?
The third lesson from this parable concerns the source of the heat that is causing the water to boil. When I discuss this parable, nine out of ten people attribute the heated water to the pot sitting on a fire. But what if the pot is sitting in the sun, or is in a warm room, or if there are other catalysts in the water with the frog that are causing the increased temperatures. The point is that sometimes we have to ask more questions, dig deeper, and open our minds to greater possibilities. If you only rely on the obvious as the cause and that the absence of the obvious is the solution…you’re likely to throw good money at bad and not solve the problem.
Clearly there are a number of parallels that we can draw between this parable and the Jewish community. The BDS movement on and off campus, violence and prejudice against Jews throughout Europe, and the growing apathy of the diaspora towards Israel are all signs of rising temperatures. We should learn from the parable of the boiled frog and understand that we need to make changes (some expedient and others gradual), we need to be aware of our surroundings, and we need to work on finding and ameliorating the true cause of the rising heat. We have seen the results of failing to learn from these lessons.