Posts Tagged With: freedom

Smoke on the Altar

A fire went out from the Lord and consumed the elevation offering and the fats upon the altar; the entire people saw and sang; they fell upon their faces.

Leviticus 9.24 (Parashat Shemini)

Upon the investiture of Aaron and his sons as priests, they offered sacrifices upon the altar. At the conclusion of the ceremony, this Divine fire came own from heaven to consume the offering, concluding the service. The people cheered, sang their songs and offered their own prayers as they lay prostrate upon the ground.

I have seen film of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of England, along with other great royal affairs. They are magnificent in their pomp and circumstance. The elevation of a pope is also a time of great of great pageantry. On a more personal note, my own ordination was a time of wonderful ceremony, replete with special music, a parade of rabbis and professors and a setting in a moorish-style synagogue, unique and historic in American Jewish history.

Leaders, both secular and religious, are well aware of the value of pomp and circumstance. Gala and pageantry are vital tools used to establish and enhance leadership. A recent example comes to mind: the celebrations in North Korea celebrating the founding of the modern state. No matter what we think of its current leader, the parade, the display of weapons and the speeches given on that day certainly had its intended effect: to cement the power of her leader and to send a message to the world that North Korea, in spite of her severe internal problems, was a world power and a dangerous one as well.

But on a much safer level, we learn from this Torah portion that religious ritual is actually pageantry and hence, theater. As religious leaders, we will be more effective when we tap into the power of pageantry in order to enhance our worship experiences; we will draw more people into our chapels and send more people out of our chapels with a deeper religious feeling. This does not mean that we should be sacrificing goats and sheep, nor should we only mimic 18th and 19th Century worship practices that our people have clearly rejected. Rather, we as religious leaders should be able to enhance religious pageantry in contemporary forms, using techniques such as video projections, high-end light and sound systems, contemporary dance and ethnic dress and foods when appropriate.

So our task as leaders is to tap into the power of pageantry to use it to our advantage. When we employ pomp and circumstance – and are authentic and use it to true and noble purposes – our people will respond in the affirmative. They may not bow down and pray to us (and I hope that they don’t!), but they will walk away more loyal to the mission and more eager to fulfill their role in it.

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Glory Days

He (Moses) said, “Show me Your glory.”

Exodus 33.18 (Shabbat Pesach)

As we are in the midst of our Passover (and Holy Week) celebrations, this Sabbath marks a special Torah reading, outside of the normal cycle of readings. We will return to Leviticus next week; this Sabbath marks a return to Exodus as we recall on the Sabbath of Passover the giving of the second set of Tablets of the Law, following the episode of the Golden Calf. After this horrific event, when Moses descended in a state of holiness from Mount Sinai, only to see his brother Aaron leading the people into apostasy, dancing around a graven, golden bull, Moses smashed the original tablets which God had personally engraved on stone tablets.

In the second giving of the Law, God instructed Moses to cut and write the 10 Commandments himself, perhaps as punishment for smashing the original Tablets. But before ascending Mount Sinai once again, Moses in his agitated state pleaded with God to show him some physical symbol of the Divine Presence, such as God’s face. To which God answered that no human could see God’s face and live. Yet, Moses still pined to see God’s glory, some showing of God’s presence.

When we read this verse in the Torah, one cannot help but think of the difference between ascribed and earned authority. Ascribed authority is given by virtue of position: a manager, rabbi or judge has ascribed authority, for example, by virtue of his or her position; it comes with the job. Earned authority, on the other hand, is not tied to position; it is given to a person by others by virtue of what one says and does. For example, in a hospital, a patient may be under the care of a doctor but it is the charge nurse who really knows the intimate status of that patient and administers care.

In the Exodus saga, neither God nor Moses started with either ascribed or earned authority; Egypt had plenty of gods and nobody, including the Israelites, knew who Moses was. It was only through the plagues and the death of Pharaoh and his army at the Sea of Reeds that the Israelites finally believed in God and in Moses.

But by the time of the Golden Calf, such earned authority had disappeared and Moses needed proof once again of God’s authority. Watching God’s back pass before him while standing in a cleft in the rock was to be the proof, the pep talk as it were, that Moses needed.

There are times when we as leaders need to show our earned authority. Hopefully they are few and far between but sometimes it is necessary. For example, when we adopt a collaborative approach to decision making, there are times when we are called upon to make a final decision – and it may go against the majority vote. Personnel decisions are another area that call for both earned and ascribed leadership; we do not hire, promote or terminate based upon the decisions of our group.

So when our people cry out, “Show us your glory!”, they are asking us to take the reins of leadership and show them the way. No matter how much we want to work alongside our co-workers, we must always remember that we also have to lead them; that is our primary job. Of course that involves listening and learning from them. But just as our success depends upon them, they depend upon us for their success as well. Let’s help them exceed their expectations.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

And Happy Easter, too!

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Don’t Let the Light Go Out

A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar, do not extinguish it.

Leviticus 6.6 (Parashat Tzav)

In memory of the fire upon this altar, every Jewish sanctuary has above its Ark a Ner Tamid, an Eternal Light, that burns continuously. Often, it has its own power source so that, were the synagogue to lose power, this small flame would still flicker. It is an omnipresent and unifying symbol of the Jewish people, a sign that we have endured and indeed flourished for thousands of years. And this verse shows us the origin of the commandment to light this Eternal Flame.

To the ancient Israelites – and to the Jews who lived in Judea prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, no book of the Torah was more sacred than Leviticus. To them, offering the sacrifices properly was vital. We will see next week that when Aaron’s sons failed to do so, the punishment was often death. Later rabbis, even after the destruction of the Temple, spent centuries poring over these texts and speculating just how Jews should reconstruct the sacrificial system should the Messiah arrive and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. That work continues, even today (although admittedly at the fringes of Jewish thought).

So as leaders, these early chapter of Leviticus give us an opportunity to ask the question: what happens when old ideas, once vital, become obsolete? Jews do not offer sacrifices any more. So what replaced the sacrificial system? How do Jews worship God? The answer is clear. In brief, Jews worship God through the study of Torah, through Prayer and through acts of Social Justice. Were the sacrificial system to come back somehow, we would have an interesting debate as to the nature of Jewish life and how to cling to God, to be sure.

So in the workforce, what is the parallel? Let’s take one glaring example: Does the law require than any job of consequence go to an able-bodied, white, married (to a woman), Christian male under the age of 50? Of course we have a long way to go before our biases are totally eradicated but we have made great strides in erasing gender, racial and other biases from the workplace. Again, we are far from perfect but hopefully we will not revert anytime soon to a Mad Men style workplace where women are secretaries, blacks are custodians and gay men hide in underground bars after hours.

Yet, when we look back on the management, organizational or leadership styles of now discarded eras, such as the sacrificial times – or even of the early 1960’s – we would be wise not to completely disregard them. For example, amidst the lengthy and difficult reading in our passages this week, we found the gem regarding the Ner Tamid, to keep the light burning upon the Altar, a light that has burnt in the Jewish sanctuary and heart for over 4,000 years continuously. Nothing may be more ancient in our faith!

In the business world of the 1960’s, think about the values of mission, integrity and loyalty to name but three. If anything, these values have increased in importance over the years as our society has changed so dramatically through technology, diversity and political upheaval. With today’s greater sense of entrepreneurship, it is even more important to hold to these values if we want our start-up companies to succeed.

So no matter our position as leaders, we can always find diamonds in the rough. We can draw out these nuggets from what seem to be endless reams of dreary pages and highlight that which is truly inspirational and motivational for ourselves, our families and those whom we touch in a professional capacity. When we do so, we will fulfill our mission and our task as leaders, raising the next generation and propelling all of us to success while building on the foundation laid by those who came before us.

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And these are the ordinances which you will place before them.

— Exodus 21.1 (Parashat Mishpatim)

In 1783, the former British colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America were enjoying heady times. They had just defeated the mighty British Empire in their War of Independence; while many former colonists lamented the end of British rule, there was celebration in the streets when General Washington accepted General Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown.

But then, I imagine that the new freed colonists awoke the next day and said, “What’s next for us?” They quickly learned that with freedom comes responsibility.

Such is the story of Moses and the newly freed Israelite slaves. When they escaped Egypt, they danced and sang before God; they were exuberant and inspired. But then came the cold (or in their case, rather hot) reality of desert life and the necessity to adopt a code of personal and communal conduct in order to survive. At Sinai, God presented Moses and the people with the 10 Commandments, a way to conduct oneself in order to curry Divine favor.

But more was needed; this is why we  have our Parasha, Mishpatim, this week. It speaks of Divine justice, to be sure. But even more important, much of the portion concerns relations between people: rule for indentured servitude, crime and punishment, etc. All this is very human, yet God sets forth an important path for the Israelites to take. If they do so, they enhance the meaning of the 10 Commandments and, in the process, draw closer to God and to each other.

In our world, such an audacious beginning, the start of a revolutionary way of life, occurs at several nodal points in our lives. As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to recognize these times and establish the ground rules for their aftermaths.

In our family circles, we establish informal ground rules when we get married: who sleeps on the right side of the bed, how do we keep the house clean, where do we work and, especially, when do we have children? In the business world, we might start a new business, change jobs or receive a promotion – or even acquire an existing company that has its own established rules and culture.

And in the religious world, forming a congregation, welcoming a new clergy leader or deciding to raise funds to build a building all require the leadership needed to establish – or refame – existing rules. These are often difficult tasks: even our Founding Fathers had to try a second time before they wrote the Constitution and created the United States.

So after the heady celebrations and the champagne-filled parties to start a marriage, business or even a religious institution, we as leaders need to sit with our stakeholders and establish the rules of conduct, to create the culture that will bring success to our endeavor. Often, this has to be a formal event, with clear goals in mind. Other times, informal consent is all that is needed – such as how to orient the toilet paper in the apartment! But if successful, we will bring great success to all that we touch.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Not Good!

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good.”

Exodus 18.17 (Parashat Yitro)

Sometimes, words can fail us. An early Aramaic translation of this passage, that of Onkelos, states the Hebrew thusly: You are not setting an example by your actions. The Hebrew original, the Aramaic interpretation and the English translation convey that sense that Moses, as he sat and judged the entire people, was doing a disservice to himself, his people and to God. By paying attention to matters both trivial and tremendous, Moses had no time to exercise his leadership or to move the Israelites forward.

As I write this blog, we here in the United States are beginning to debate the merits of a Supreme Court nominee. Without delving into the politics of the matter, all of us realize that the Supreme Court should not be hearing cases involving our speeding tickets! Their purview is reserved, quite correctly, for only the most transformative of cases; other cases are best left to the lower courts.

And so it was for Moses. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, helps Moses to establish tribal panels that adjudicated within each tribe. Eventually, a three-tiered system came into being, with Moses being the Biblical version of the Supreme Court. Jethro convinced Moses to delegate, to push the little stuff back to the tribal courts so that he would have the time and energy to focus on the big picture, namely what God had in store for the Jewish people.

Interestingly, this story comes just before the momentous giving of the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai. Even without this revelation, Moses was able to discern the Will of God – and to teach this to the people by training and then delegating responsibility. Then, when the Torah came into existence in just a few short verses from this passage, the Israelite people would be ready for a more formal system of laws. Was t his dictatorial? I think not since Moses endeavored to speak in the name of God, not in the name of Moses.

So as leaders, we learn many lessons from this short but often forgotten story in Exodus:

  • Speak truth to power. If Jethro could abjure Moses and convince him to change his ways, we should not be afraid to chastize our leaders – at any level. Abraham, Jacob and now Moses even rebuked God on occasion – and got away with it! A mere mortal should be child’s play for us.
  • Listen when someone wants to help you. You are not obligated to agree with their ideas but at least give them a chance to express them. We have to credit Moses here with changing his ways after Jethro offered to set up the lower courts.
  • Focus on the big picture; let others handle the details. As a leader you are obligated to create and act upon a vision for your company, family or even religious institution. If  you find yourself stuck in the weeds, like Moses was, there will never be an opportunity to enact your vision.
  • Give credit and show gratitude. When Jethro heard all of what God had done for the Israelites, he offered a sacrifice of gratitude. And he wasn’t even a Hebrew! Remember that ultimately it is not about us; it is about our organization and the people within it who support it and make it successful.

Perhaps this passage appears before the giving of the 10 Commandments so that Moses will see that God was not giving the 10 Commandments to him, per se, but rather to the entire Israelite nation. That is why he brought the Commandments down from Mount Sinai instead of staying on the top of the mountain with them: the Law was meant for everyone and Moses, as chief lawgiver, was to push the law downward to the people.

So we learn this week that delegation, training and responsibility are to be pushed downward if we are to be successful. This strengthens our bench, creates a new generation of leaders and enhances our status as caring and nurturing leaders.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Turn Around Plan

So God turned the people towards the desert of the Sea of Reeds…

Exodus 13.18 (Parashat Beshallach)

What is the quickest way for 600,000 Israelites to leave Egypt? If we looked at a map, we would notice that the Land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was along the Mediterranean Coast. The easiest and quickest route would have been to walk along the sea shore until they arrived in the Land of Israel.

But it did not happen that way. The Torah provides us with a wonderful marker in time when it states in the prior verse that the Philistines were already living along the coast. The Philistines were a powerful, advanced civilization – possibly of Greek origin – who built large cities, raised great armies and were feared for centuries. For example, Goliath was a Philistine; they were Israel’s nemesis for centuries.

Whether the Philistines were living along the modern-day Gaza Strip at the time of the Exodus – or a later writer, who knew of the Philistines, inserted them into the story to provide a point of reference – is not important. What is important is that this provides an explanation as to why the Israelites had to cross the desert and the Sea of Reeds in order to become free.

In other words, God saw a need to pivot, to change course in order to achieve success. This pivot led to the great defeat of the Egyptian Army, the Song at the Sea and, most important, the revelation at Sinai. In this instance, a change of direction was a marvelous idea.

As leaders, we too should look for opportunities to pivot, to change direction when it becomes necessary. A product is not selling and a cut in price isn’t doing the trick? Pivot – remove the product from inventory, redesign or repackage it or even rename it: a pivot changes the perception of the product and reframes the discussion in your favor.

Let me put it another way: if God could change course, so can we! If God is not too stubborn as to lead our people into certain destruction, than we should have the wisdom to know when we should change course as well. Times change and so does God – and so should we.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Hardening of the Heart

So the Eternal said to Moses, “Come to Pharaoh for I have caused his heart to harden as well as the heart of his servants in order that these two signs be close to him.

Exodus 10.1 (Parashat Bo)

One of the enduring questions in the Book of Exodus has to do with the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Time and again, God states that the Eternal One will harden Pharaoh’s heart prior to one of the 10 Plagues – including the final plague, the death of the first-born Egyptian boys.

Simpy put, why did God just have Pharaoh let the people go? Why did it take 10 plagues and Divine intervention to STOP the Israelites from leaving? It does not really make sense.

Unless we look at it from the perspective of Divine and human authority. When Moses first went before Pharaoh, turning rods into snakes and calling down the first few plagues, God was working to establish authority, both Divine and human. After all, Pharaoh, the Egyptians and even the Israelites knew nothing of this new God, nor of Moses. They had to put on a show in order to impress the world with their strength and power.

But after a few plagues, the Israelites, Egyptians and certainly Pharaoh knew of God’s awesome power and of Moses’ ability to channel that power. So why continue to harden Pharaoh’s heart? Perhaps it was to reinforce God’s power over the university. Perhaps it was to reinforce Moses’ authority over the Israelites .

But perhaps it was to show, as we will painfully learn next week, that freedom does not come without a price. The message of the Exodus clearly is that God intends for human beings to live as free people, unhindered by the bounds of a corrupt government or hostile populace; freedom is the ideal and God just demands that humans live in a state of freedom, Israelite or not.By hardening Pharaoh’s heart, God demonstrates mastery over the universe and ultimate control of human affairs. While we do not often feel or act like God’s puppets, the possibility of becoming God’s puppet, as did Pharaoh, always exists.

As leaders today, we can step back from the Divine element and realize that when we double down, when we remain relentless despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary,when our vision – no matter how noble – propels us into the wrong corners of the world,  will see our greatest ambitions and plans laid out on the scrap heap of history. If something goes wrong in an otherwise ethical and promising endeavor, fix it! If the endeavor is unethical, scrap it! And if the ethical endeavor ultimately fails, let’s realize that failure and start with something new. As long as we learn from failure, we will ultimately become successful in achieving our greater goals.

Pharaoh doubled-down and it cost him his kingdom, his son and his life. Such is the cost of being stubborn in the face of contradictory evidence; it will inevitably lead to disaster. Let us hope that we can see our way out of such a foolhardy enterprise.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Know Your Past

And there arose a new king in Egypt who did not know Joseph.

— Exodus 1.8 (Parashat Shemot)

The Talmud (Sotah 11a), that ancient wellspring of Jewish law and lore, suggests that this new Pharaoh was either ignorant of Joseph’s contribution to Egyptian history or willingly chose to ignore Joseph’s contributions. Either way, either by ignorance or deliberate design, the ancient Israelites were consigned to slavery and potential extermination.

Let’s look at each of these equally valid possibilities from the perspective of a leader. If the new Pharaoh truly did not know his history – and yet was fated to lead the Egyptian nation – he operated at a severe disadvantage, one that harmed him tremendously. As George Santayana said (1905),

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Of course, Santayana (and later by none other than Sir Winston Churchill) did not believe that forgetting the past could lead to anything but tragedy; history’s victories would never be repeated in the vainglorious attempt to forget the past.

Even worse, perhaps, is the attempt to rewrite history. By choosing to forget Joseph, Pharaoh enabled Egypt to commit horrendous acts against the Israelites, such as enslavement and the death of the newborn males.In the end, this willful whitewashing also led to tragedy.

The failure to confront historical reality is a great danger for leaders, even today. In our time, we see “fake news” become real, lies that take on lives of their own and a negation of the historical American compact that pose a real threat to this democratic experiment. in the micro world of work or family, the destruction of family or work culture leads to their very unraveling, calling into question the very fabic of our society.

So rather than deny history, leaders are expected to embrace history, both good and bad, in order to learn from it and to help government, business, family and religion to progress. When we as leaders offer a bit of history – whether it be from world events or simply work or family stories – we are giving the very essence of what leaders do: embrace and transmit the historical record so that those that follow us embrace the values for which we stand.

When someone as radical and different as a Pharaoh who know not Joseph rises to power – in whatever context – all of us need to beware. This leader does not have our benefit at heart – only his. For to deny history is to exalt one’s ego; this is a situation that we as leaders cannot endure; it leads to the destruction of our enterprise. And as leaders, we have the power and the obligation to stand up to such leaders and repair the tears in the moral universe that such damage causes.

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All of us demand much from ourselves and from our teams. Yet, celebration is important as well – not just to remember birthdays but to strengthen the culture and continue the traditions of our family, faith or organization. And so, we should encourage such celebrations as servant-leaders.

Three times a year shall you hold a festival for Me: you shall observe the Feast of Matzot (Passover) – seven days shall you eat Matzah (unleavened bread) as I have commanded you – at the set time in the month of Aviv, for in it you went out from Egypt; and none shall appear before Me empty handed; and the Feast of the Harvest (Shavuot), of the first fruits of your work, of what you sow in the field; and the Feast of the Ingathering (Sukkot) at the end of the year, when you gather in the results of your work from the field. Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Sovereign, the Lord. You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with anything leavened; and the fat of My festival offering shall not be left lying until morning. The choice first frits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

–Exodus 23.14-19 (Parashat Mishpatim)

All of us as servant-leaders expect much from those with whom we work. While we try to be fair with our co-workers, nothing that I have written over the past year should be taken to imply anything less than high expectations. In fact, when we follow the path that I have laid out – a clear vision, a team approach to fulfilling and exceeding our mission, proper training and hiring as well as constant coaching – than success is more likely to follow and our co-workers will welcome higher expectations because they will also appreciate the rewards that this success will bring: promotions, increased job satisfaction and perhaps even more money to take home.

Along with this demand for high expectations comes a need for celebrations. While every day cannot be a party, every workplace, every home and every religious institution has its own built-in times for celebration: birthdays, national holidays, religious holy days and the like. Taking time out from the routine in order to celebrate these holidays – as opposed to celebrating individual and team accomplishments – is a vital component of our individual and team success.

This is why the Torah commands Israel to celebrate these three Pilgrimage Holidays: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. These are times when God calls upon Israelite men to come before Him to offer sacrifices and to recall the Exodus from Egypt – as well as to offer gratitude for the abundance of the land.

But why? Aside from the obvious agrarian roots of these festivals, why are these festivals so important in the Jewish calendar? Why are they so important to servant-leaders? The answer, I believe, can be found in a prior verse, Exodus 23.9:

You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.

The following verses, relating to the Sabbatical year, the Sabbath itself and idolatry all refer back to oppression. And so, when we look at these verses, we should consider the slave experience when discussing Biblical leadership. After all, this experience, and the experience of liberation from bondage, was the defining moment in Jewish history, one that catapulted the Israelite people forward as a nation, both politically and theologically.
And how powerful is this meaning! Obviously, Passover celebrates the Jewish people’s liberation from bondage; the holiday would not exist without this experience. Shavuot is pegged to Passover later in the Torah; it occurs exactly 50 days after Passover and, according to the later rabbis, is the day when Moses received the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai. And Sukkot, aside from being a major harvest festival, is also the name of the first oasis where the Israelites rested on their journey out of Egypt, a fact often lost on the modern Jew or Christian.

Furthermore, we do not offer the blood of an animal (under the dietary laws, Jews leach out the blood found in meat) as Jews believe that to consume blood therefore is also a sign of oppression. And boiling a kid (a baby goat) in its mother’s milk, the origin of the law banning the mixing of milk and meat, is also oppressive as the liquid that should be used for nourishment is instead used for cooking.

So as servant-leaders, we learn from this portion not only to celebrate at proper times but also to remember our collective history as an organization at every turn. Hopefully our respective organizations do not have a history of oppression. Celebrations are a time to build up our culture; we should embrace the opportunities that such times bring us so that our organizations may thrive.

So let’s not think of the company parties as a waste of time. Instead, let’s begin to use them as times to lead, times to embrace and enhance our mission and bring our people together in joy so that we can move forward and raise our expectations for the future.

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. The opinions expressed here are his own. Rabbi Parr is available for speaking and writing engagements at

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And when you enter the land which the Lard gives you, as He promised, you shall celebrate this ritual (the Passover sacrifice). When your children ask you, “What is this ritual?”, you will say, “It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, because He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He killed the Egyptians, but saved our houses.'” The people then bowed down in homage. And the Israelites went and did so; just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

Exodus 12.25-28 (Parashat B0)

In these few verses, we realize the origin of the Passover Seder, the home service that Jews celebrate on the first and second nights of Passover. Very simply, the Seder is a ritualized answer to the children’s questions about the special Passover offering. Later, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the cessation of the sacrifices, the Seder ritual changed towards the elaborate service that we have today, one of joy and great ceremony, where children take center stage as they ask the questions that prompt the telling of the great story of the Exodus from Egypt and the rationale behind the symbols on the Seder table.

Without the yearly telling of the story of the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian slavery, there would be no Judaism; it is one of the ties that bind generations of Jews together. I remember well, sitting next to my grandfather as he led a great Seder in his basement every year. Well over 50 relatives would descend (literally) into the basement as he and his brothers would lead the Seder (his sister was the caterer); the young cousins would careen around the basement in joy and excitement. Yet, it was a thrilling time and one that we all remember fondly.

A sense of shared tradition and culture is vital for a religious group, be it an entire faith or a single congregation. It is just as vital for a family, building warm and joyous memories – be they of Passover, Christmas or even Festivus!

And I daresay that a shared culture and tradition is just as vital in the business world. While progress and change is vital, so is tradition and legacy. It is vital that there are people who know what happened in the company 10 or even 20 years ago; they may be the only ones who know how to find a certain document or how to fix a certain problem. They may know the recipe for the secret sauce or how to connect with your largest client. New hires would do well to learn from these people.

Even more important, these people exhibit the mission and vision that you as servant-leaders are attempting to convey to the rest of the team. After all, they would not still be working there after all these years if they did not share your vision for the company.

So when the newbies come to you with questions about the company – and not just how to process the paperwork – refer them to the keepers of the culture, the storytellers and the bearers of the vision. They will be the ones who will inculcate these people with the vision and the mission of the organization. After all, they bought into the vision years or even decades ago, perhaps even before you signed on to the company, and they may be there long after you leave. So it is best that you task them with the responsibility of teaching new hires the vision and mission of your organization.

After all, they are living it better than anyone. Let them “teach the children.”

Rabbi Jordan Parr is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth El in Odessa, TX. He has also resumed his responsibilities as an Adjunct Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. The opinions expressed in the blog are his own. Rabbi Parr is available for speaking and writing engagements at

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