SAGE ADVICE FROM JEWISH SAGES

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voting

One way to discern a society’s values is to analyze its leaders. A leader who is chosen by the populace of a democratic society can be viewed as the embodiment of the values and ideals that his or her group holds dear. In a few months Americans will have our chance to speak and vote for our leaders, including the President of the United States.

As a naturalized U.S. citizen, I take voting very seriously. I am honored and privileged to assume my responsibility to have a voice in selecting the leaders of my community, state and country.  My personal decision-making leads me to reflect on the enduring texts of our Jewish tradition.  Over the course of our four-thousand year history, Jewish civilization has had an abundance of leaders and heroes. These timeless tomes continue to touch us and teach us today. This is especially true of the Bible, which is filled with stories that parallel our own lives.

There is no more important Biblical character than Moses, who helped change the course of human history. As the first leader of the Jewish people and as transmitter of the Torah, Moses exerted a unique force in shaping the Israelite nation. We learn that one of Moses’ salient characteristics is that his life is not his own, but rather is bound up with the lives of the Israelites and with the mission of the emergent nation. We read about the difficult and painful choices that he must make, and how he is always supportive of his people, even when they fail. Despite the people’s constant challenges to his leadership and the rejection of his authority, Moses never totally loses hope. In recognition of his wise leadership and personal role model, the Jewish sages titled him Moshe Rabbenu—Moses our rabbi and teacher.

Much has been written in Western civilization throughout the centuries and in the contemporary press about the mechanics of leadership.  Much less is written about the values and lifestyles that should characterize our leaders. So I turned to rabbinic sources to guide my thinking about the requisite qualities of leaders – and invite you to also consider these attributes as you determine your choice for new leadership:

Ben Zoma taught:” Who is a leader? One who conquers one’s passion and emotions, as it is written ‘One who is slow to anger is better than a leader, and one who rules over his spirit is better than one who conquers a city’ [Proverbs 16:32] (Ethics of the Fathers 4:1).

 

 The acts of the leader are the acts of the nation. If the leader is just, the nation is just; if the leader is unjust, the nation too is unjust. (Zohar ii, 47a)

Rabbi Judah Nesiah said: “According to the leader, so goes the generation.”(Talmud Arachin 17a)

There are four kinds of people whom people dislike: One is a leader who is arrogant toward his constituents for no good reason. (Talmud Pesachim 113b)

A leader who guides with humility shall lead them also in the World-to-Come. (Talmud Sanhedrin 32)

Who is the leader of all leaders? Some say one who can transform an enemy into a friend. (Avot deRabbi Natan, chapter 23)  

Pondering this ancient advice will guide my decision-making in the voting booth. I hope that it will also illuminate your choices about who will lead and represent our great nation.

Everything you need to know about business ethics…from a factory visit

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ManufacturingBasics

Recently I was invited to visit and tour the factory owned by one of my long-time friends. This was the first time I have ever visited a factory, and I was excited to learn about the manufacturing process. I spent two hours walking around the plants’ three buildings, amazed by the complex production lines and the fascinating robotic machines. The business is a huge international enterprise that dominates the field. Beyond the size, sophistication, product line diversity, commitment to quality and efficiency that I observed, what impressed me most was my friend’s management style. What I saw yesterday was natural leadership by the boss. As he introduced me to dozens of workers who operated various machines, he greeted each by name. Each employee received a smile, direct eye contact, and acknowledgment of who they are and what they do. He knew and shared with me all of the events going on in their lives, whether it was someone who had just become a grandfather, someone who recently had a child, or someone who had started at the company when the owner was a young child.  My friend explained matter-of-factly that he provides full medical benefits for his employees and the many other ways he supports his employees and their families. The employees’ positive attitudes and a caring attitude about their work was palpable.

Jewish texts and teachings about the ethics and morals of earning a living and the rights of workers abound. More than 100 of the Bible’s commandments address concerns of business and economics. Biblical law is very concerned with the worker’s welfare and dignity. Biblical prophets often preached from the marketplace, rather than from a lectern in the Jerusalem Temple. They sternly denounced employers who delayed in paying their workers – even by a single day! Rabbinic thinkers translated many of the prophetic teachings regarding justice and righteousness directly to the arena of business. How was a worker to be treated? How many hours should he work? Should a worker receive food as part of his compensation? Are there occasions when a worker could leave his work and not return to it at all? How often should a worker be paid?

Businesses which exist solely to maximize profit become disconnected from their soul—and from the spiritual interconnectedness of humanity. Imagine a world in which all people would heed the timeless wisdom of the Talmud (Baba Kama 30a) which states: “Whoever wants to be saintly should live according to the laws of the Talmud dealing with commerce and finance.”

The importance of business ethics in Judaism is emphasized by the Talmudic text which notes that when a person is brought before the heavenly court for judgment after his death, he is asked several questions. The very first question asked in heaven is “Did you conduct your business affairs honestly?” Our tradition teaches us that God’s first concern is personal decency.

In the workplace, people who feel valued and are treated with respect and dignity will tend to go the extra mile, demonstrate their loyalty, and excel in their work. I am grateful that my first ever factory visit was such an outstanding exemplar of how to do right!

Congratulations to my friend on being a great boss and manager, as well as an all-round mensch (nice guy)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently I was invited to visit and tour the factory owned by one of my long-time friends. This was the first time I have ever visited a factory, and I was excited to learn about the manufacturing process. I spent two hours walking around the plants’ three buildings, amazed by the complex production lines and the fascinating robotic machines. The business is a huge international enterprise that dominates the field. Beyond the size, sophistication, product line diversity, commitment to quality and efficiency that I observed, what impressed me most was my friend’s management style. What I saw yesterday was natural leadership by the boss. As he introduced me to dozens of workers who operated various machines, he greeted each by name. Each employee received a smile, direct eye contact, and acknowledgment of who they are and what they do. He knew and shared with me all of the events going on in their lives, whether it was someone who had just become a grandfather, someone who recently had a child, or someone who had started at the company when the owner was a young child.  My friend explained matter-of-factly that he provides full medical benefits for his employees and the many other ways he supports his employees and their families. The employees’ positive attitudes and a caring attitude about their work was palpable.

Jewish texts and teachings about the ethics and morals of earning a living and the rights of workers abound. More than 100 of the Bible’s commandments address concerns of business and economics. Biblical law is very concerned with the worker’s welfare and dignity. Biblical prophets often preached from the marketplace, rather than from a lectern in the Jerusalem Temple. They sternly denounced employers who delayed in paying their workers – even by a single day! Rabbinic thinkers translated many of the prophetic teachings regarding justice and righteousness directly to the arena of business. How was a worker to be treated? How many hours should he work? Should a worker receive food as part of his compensation? Are there occasions when a worker could leave his work and not return to it at all? How often should a worker be paid?

Businesses which exist solely to maximize profit become disconnected from their soul—and from the spiritual interconnectedness of humanity. Imagine a world in which all people would heed the timeless wisdom of the Talmud (Baba Kama 30a) which states: “Whoever wants to be saintly should live according to the laws of the Talmud dealing with commerce and finance.”

The importance of business ethics in Judaism is emphasized by the Talmudic text which notes that when a person is brought before the heavenly court for judgment after his death, he is asked several questions. The very first question asked in heaven is “Did you conduct your business affairs honestly?” Our tradition teaches us that God’s first concern is personal decency.

In the workplace, people who feel valued and are treated with respect and dignity will tend to go the extra mile, demonstrate their loyalty, and excel in their work. I am grateful that my first ever factory visit was such an outstanding exemplar of how to do right!

Congratulations to my friend on being a great boss and manager, as well as an all-round mensch (nice guy)!