And they heard the voice of the Eternal God walking back and forth in the Garden in the heat of the day. And the Man and his Wife hid themselves from the Eternal God inside the tree of the Garden.
Parashat Bereishit (Gen. 3.8)
After a year’s “Sabbatical,” Lessons in Biblical Leadership has returned. This weekly blog post will discuss how the stories and mitzvoth of the Torah teach us about modern principles of leadership. Each week, we will examine a passage from the first third (Triennial) of the weekly Torah portion, drawing a special teaching from it. As we begin the reading of Genesis this Shabbat, it is of course most fitting that we look at a selection from the story of the Garden of Eden.
The serpent convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Afterwards, Adam ate of the fruit. Realizing that they were naked (and also realizing that this was embarrassing), they sewed clothing from fig leaves and hid from God in the Garden.
It was only then that God began his evening stroll. Of course, he was checking out the Garden, making sure that all the humans and animals were playing well together and that these humans were paying attention. After all, the ultimate leader (God) was modeling proper leadership behavior: he was following up and the progress of his creation.
But can we not assume that God knew that Adam and Eve had already broken faith with the Eternal One! After all, if God was all-knowing, God would already have known of the human frailties and how they succumbed to temptation. It might even have been part of the Divine Plan.
So God walking to and fro in the Garden, asking of Adam and Eve, was an opportunity for Adam and Eve to confess and to take responsibility for their misdeeds. God already knew what had happened; what was important was that Adam and Eve admitted to their errors so that they could improve on their behavior. After all, a lesson is learned best when it is self-taught and not imposed – even from a Diety.
When we are placed in positions of leadership, and we discover errors on the part of those with whom we work, it is best to help them to uncover their own mistakes (assuming they are not illegal or threats to one’s health). My experience has shown that when we give and receive feedback – instead of punishments or warnings – both leader and those led are better for it; everyone learns! So let us take that to heart as we begin this new Jewish Year.
Rabbi Jordan Parr is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Odessa, TX and an adjunct Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. A published author, Rabbi Parr is available for speaking engagements and writing offers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to share this blog posting with friends and family; comments are always welcome.