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Zero-Based Budgeting and Avinu Malkeynu

For many of us who actually work off a budget, be if for profit, for not-for-profit or personal we just roll over one year’s budget from the last. Developed by Peter Pyhrr in the 1970s, Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) is a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified and approved for each new period. ZBB starts from a “zero base” at the beginning of every budget period, analyzing needs and costs of every function within an organization and allocating funds accordingly, regardless of how much money has previously been budgeted to any given line item.

zero_based_budget_process_ppt_example_file_Slide01

There are positives to ZBB:

  1. Accuracy: This type of budgeting helps companies to evaluate every department to ensure they are appropriately funded.
  2. Efficiency: It helps judge the actual needs by focusing on current numbers rather than the momentum of previous budgets.
  3. Reduced waste: It can remove redundant spending by re-examining potentially unnecessary expenditures.
  4. Coordination and Communication: It allows for better communication within departments by involving employees in decision-making and budget prioritization.

There are also drawbacks of ZBB:

  1. Bureaucracy: Creating ZBB within a company can take enormous amounts of time, effort, and analysis that would require extra staff. This could cause the process to be counterproductive in cutting costs.
  2. Bloat: In using ZBB, managers can skew proposed budgets to characterize expenditures on pet projects as vital activities, inventing a “necessity” for them.
  3. Intangible Justifications: This type of budgeting requires departments to justify their budget, which can be difficult on many levels. Departments such as advertising and marketing have to justify expenses they may or may not use in the next year due to the fluctuation of the market. This could cost them profits in the future due to not being able to justify a certain amount.
  4. Managerial Time: ZBB comes at the cost of time and training for managers. This means spending significantly more time every period on the budget.
  5. Slower Response Time: Due to the amount of time and training is required to do ZBB, managerial staff could be less likely to revise the budget in response to a changing market. This means that it will take longer for a company to move money into departments that need it the most at the time. ZBB could potentially leave gaps in a company because the budget might not react to departments’ sudden needs

Performance measures are a key component of the ZBB process. At the core, ZBB requires quality measures that can be used to analyze the impact of alternative funding scenarios on program operations and outcomes. Without quality measures ZBB simply will not work because decisions cannot be ranked or evaluated. Traditionally, a ZBB analysis focused on three types of measures:

  1. effectiveness,
  2. efficiency, and
  3. workload for each decision unit.

I was thinking about this yesterday near the end of Yom Kippur when singing the end of Avinu Malkeynu. There we say:

ah-vee-noo mahl-kay-noo chah-nay-noo vah-ahh-nay-noo kee ayn bah-noo mah-ahh-seem ahh-say eeh-mah-noo tzih-dah-kah vah-cheh-sed vih-hoe-shee-ay-noo- Our Father, Our King! favor us and answer us for we have no good deeds; deal with us charitably and kindly with us

Every other time I said this it came off as a child pleading to their Father to save them. Yes we know we are crap and have done nothing good, but since you love us as a parent loves a child you will save us. But here during Neilah at the end of Yom Kippur after a day in which we have already repented and we have done teshuva I got to thinking about what this means. Maybe after the slate has been cleaned from year of sin, it has also been cleared from any good we have done. We too have to go through a ZBB for our lives. For better and for worse nothing will roll over from last year.

So let’s get to work and make 5782 everything we want it to be. Here is to a year filled with health, happiness, effectiveness, efficiency, and good decisions.

Reb Asher the Dairyman: Will We Hear Him This Year?

For various reasons I recently found myself reading Isaac Bashevis Singer‘s In My Father’s Court recently. I just love his depiction of the old world and his story telling. Each of the stories helps to paint a different aspect of Singer’s early life growing up the son of a Hassidic Rebbe and Rebeitzen. His family had moved from the country into Warsaw. In the stories we see Singer himself exploring the world beyond his own.

Isaac Bashevis Singer

There is one story there I can not get out of my mind. The title of the story Reb Asher the Dairyman already had me thinking I could reconnect with Shalom Aleichem‘s Tevye. But this is a different story. Reb Asher was tall, broad, strong, with a black beard, large eyes, and “the voice of a lion”. He volunteered in Singer’s Father’s makeshift High Holiday minyan as the Hazzan. Singer also tells how Reb Asher takes him under his wing to bring him to the train to see more of the outside world. It is clear that Reb Asher is a friend of the family.

There we read:

One year, at the close of the Day of Atonement, this same Asher, our friend and benefactor, saved our very lives. It happened in this manner. After the day-long fast, we had eaten the repast. Later a number of Jews gathered in our house to dance and rejoice. My father had already put up the first beam of the Sukkah. Late that night we had at last fallen asleep. Since benches and pews has been set up in the bedroom, and the entire house was in disorder, each of us slept wherever he could find a spot. But one thing we has forgotten- to extinguish the candles that were still burning on some of the pews. Late that night Asher had to drive to the railroad station to pick up milk. He passed our house and noticed that it was unusually bright. This was not the glow of candles, or of a lamp, but rather the glare of a great fire. Asher realized that our house must be burning. He rang the bell at the gate, but janitor did not rush to open it. He too was asleep. Then Asher set to ringing the bell and beating on the door with such furor that at las the Gentile awoke and opened the gate. Asher raced up the stairs and knocked on our door, but no one answered. Then Asher the mighty hurled his broad shoulders against the door and forced it open. Bursting into the house, he found the entire family asleep while all around, benches, prayer stands, prayer books, and holiday prayer books were aflame. He began to call our in his booming cantorial voice and finally roused us, and then he tore off our quilts and set to smothering the conflagration.

In My Father’s Court (166-167)

In some way we see Singer depicting Asher reliving the Midrash of Avram discovering God when stopping to investigate a castle that is has it’s lights on and/or is engulfed in fire. But in another way this story from the old world seems prescient in describing our moment in history today. Just like the Singer family we have fallen asleep and the world is burning. Be it global warming and its forest fires, political fervor, raging racism, or this evolving Covid-19 plague, our reality feels like it burning to the ground. How do we deal with trauma? How might we address the underlying root causes?

As we prepare for Yom Kippur I pause to think about the voice of the Hazan. Will I allow myself to get lost in the nostalgia? Will his voice lull us to sleep with a false sense of comfort? Or, will the booming “voice of the lion” wake us? We will only be saved when we face the issues burning all around us. As we prepare to stand in God’s Court during Yom Kippur we should all be blessed to be saved by our friend Reb Asher on his way to the railroad station to pick up the milk.

Tzom Rabin

On November 4th, 1995 at 21:30,  at Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv at the end of a rally in support of the Oslo Accords assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. I pause to remember the man he was and his importance to the Jewish people. In President Bill Clinton’s eulogy for Rabin he wrote, “Yitzhak Rabin lived the history of Israel. Throughout every trial and triumph, the struggle for independence, the wars for survival, the pursuit of peace and all he served on the front lines, this son of David and of Solomon, took up arms to defend Israel’s freedom and lay down his life to secure Israel’s future.” As I look back on the past 26 years since his death I think about how much has changed and how much as stayed the same.

Israel's Yitzhak Rabin assassinated at peace rally - archive, 1995 | Middle  East and North Africa | The Guardian

There are clearly growing generational gaps between the Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and the Gen Zers. We have not even begun to understand the impact of the recent political and environmental shifts let alone the effect of Covid-19 on this next generation.

Just as my father knew exactly where he was when Kennedy was shot, I know exactly where I was when Rabin was shot. And for our four children Rabin will be as distant as Kennedy is to me. Despite the distance of time, I hope that our children learn from Rabin that contributing to the world as a responsible citizen does not happen despite their Jewish identity, but actually can be lived out more fully through their Jewish identity. Rabin’s assassination teaches us how violence is senseless. And I want Rabin’s memory to be for what he did and tried to do, not what was done to him.

I was thinking about this yesterday in trying help my children understand the significance of Tzom Gedalia.  Gedalia was the governor of Yehudah. His assassination by a fellow Jew ended Jewish autonomy following the destruction of the First Temple.  Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” When will we learn?

A Majestic Light: Shanah Tova

In trying to prepare for Rosh HaShanah I find myself swept into the surge of amazing popular Israel rock. Most recently I have been listening to Shemesh- Sun by Hanan Ben Ari. Completely worth Listening to before Rosh HaShanah.

Beside the amazing and mysterious sound of Shemesh the lyrics are the perfect thing to get into Malchuyot- God’s Coronation Day. He sings:

I find myself longing. Seeking an answer. See me, give me Your hand. I am one who’s willing to change. Come and light up my days. With a Or Yafe Ganuz-beautiful, hidden light for almost a million generations. And then I shall be like a sun to the world. I shall be like a bird, wandering across space. You, You shall be my King forevermore. I thank Thee for the path You’ve sworn unto me

Shemesh- Hanan Ben Ari

I too find myself longing. It is hard to finding meaning in the world these days. Ben Ari is asking us to reach out and be open to the Or Ganuz hidden light. Rav Nachman teaches ” Anyone who wants to experience a taste of the Or HaGanuz (Hidden Light)—i.e., the mysteries of the Torah that will be revealed in the Future—must elevate the aspect of fear to its source.” ( Likutei Moharan 15:1:2 ) This reminds me of the oft quoted poem Our Deepest Fear
By Marianne Williamson. She writes:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

When we are open to the Or Ganuz we become the sun that lights the room. In allowing ourselves to self-actualize we make room for God, the King, to do the same. The majestic light of Rosh HaShanah inspires us to live up to our potential. We just need to be open to the experience. May you have a Shana Tova U’Metukah- a good and sweet New Year full of light.

Dear Child to Me: On Emunah and this Blog

I remind each of my children all of the time, ” I love them the most of all…just like their three siblings.” This year as I have been feebly trying to prepare for the High Holidays during Elul. One thing that had helped is that I have found myself singing again and again to different covers of Deveykus‘s Haben Yakir Li. The lyrics are taken from a section of Jeremiah that we read on the second day of Rosh HaShanah. There we read:

Truly, Efraim is a dear child to Me,
A child  in whom I delight!
Whenever I speak of him,
My thoughts would dwell on him still.
That is why My heart yearns for him;
I will receive him back in love
—declares the LORD.

Jeremiah 31:20

For me it expresses an extraordinary expression of God’s anthropopathic love of Israel. Here is one version with some nice violin:

There is some ambiguity about the text when it says ” Whenever I speak of him“. Is it when I speak to him, about him, or even against him? Rashi explores the meaning of “whenever I speak of him” and comments:

Every time that I speak of him. And the Midrash Leviticus Rabbah (2:3) explains: It is enough My speech (דַּי דִבּוּרִי) with which I endowed him, that I taught him My Torah, for Me to have mercy on him.

Rashi on Jeremiah 31:20

This is an interesting thought. It is as if God recalls learning with Efraim and that reminds God how much God loves him.

This parental love through learning reminded me of a Rashi from Parshat Vayigash. Yosef, Efraim’s father, reveals his identity to his brothers. Finding out that their father is still alive he sends agalot– wagons to bring Yaakov to Egypt. There Rashi comments:

By sending the wagons (agalot), Yosef sent him a sign. What was the (topic) they had studied before he (Yosef) left? The topic of the egla arufa -beheaded heifer (see Shoftim). Thus the text states, “when he saw the agalot which Yosef sent,” and not which Pharoh sent.

Rashi on Bereishit 45:27

There is something deep about parent’s love of a child. Even though he was told that Yosef died years earlier, once he saw these agalot Yaakov just knew that Yosef was alive due to the learning that they shared before Yosef’s abduction. This love gets even deeper when it comes in the context of their learning Torah together. This is a love that never could believe that Yosef is truly dead. This is also a love that wants to allow Efraim’s return regardless of his misdeeds.

I was thinking about this parental love in the context of learning while studying with Emunah in preparation for Bat Mitzah this coming spring. It feels special, just like the learning I do with her three siblings. They are all dear to me.

On another level I was thinking about Emunah when sharing this Torah thought with you through this blog. I started this practice of writing a weekly blog when she was born. Emunah and this blog* recently turned 12.

*For those following along at home this is my 756th blog post.

Breaks Over: Preparing for the Fall Transition

This summer has been transformative for our children. After months of masks and social isolation they just needed camp. And now I am worried about the confluence of the resurgence of the Delta varient and their headed back to school. How will we rally them to get back into Covid restrictions after a summer of freedom?

I was thinking about this and I was reminded of a joke that my father used to say. As my dad would tell it, a man dies and goes to hell. There he is given three choices of how to spend eternity. In room one, it’s the classic version, the evil-doers being engulfed by fire and brimstone. In room two, people are buried up to their necks in poop. In room three, people are standing around knee-deep in excrement, drinking coffee. The man chooses option three. He is excited to join the group and he gets a big cup of coffee. While it is clearly not heaven, it is not that bad. He is feeling pretty good about his decision. Just as he takes his first sip there is an announcement over a loudspeaker: “Attention! Coffee break is over! Back on your heads!”

Today is my father’s 3rd Yahrzeit. I miss him, his wit, and his ability to get to the heart of the matter. This will be a difficult fall for our children, but it was a great coffee break.

The Clarity of Broken Leadership

In Eikev, this week’s Torah portion, we revisit the Golden Calf incident. Moshe is up on the Mountain getting the Ten Commandments from God and when he comes down with the two Tablets he sees that the Israelites had created an idolatrous Golden Calf to worship. First he breaks the Tablets and then he grinds up the Golden Calf. What was so bad about creating this idol? No one got hurt. Also it is noteworthy that Moshe destroys both the Tablets a gift from God and the Golden Calf, but why?

I get that we need to remove the Golden Calf so destruction makes sense. There was something alluring about the idol. While it exist there is a temptation to use it. I do not understand is why Moshe destroyed the Tablets as well. It was a manifestation of the will of a God with whom it was so hard to connect. Can you image spending 40 days straight working on something and than just tossing it in the trash?

In creating the Golden Calf the Israelites proved that they might do anything as a group. Their group-think created a context where many bad things could happen. It would just take one bad egg to act on the spirit of the group and anything was possible. Moshe broke the God-given Tablets to awaken the people of the logical ends of their idolatry. He broke the Tablets to remind them that his lot with with them. While he worked for 40 days to get the Tablets we would work for 40 years for his people. He had to give up his personal accomplishments for the sake of their redemption. Leadership is hard, but clarity of mission will always help us fix that which has been broken.

Said It Before: Tisha B’Av and Ani V’Ata

This Shabbat is Shabbat Hazon with the vision of the destruction. Tisha B’Av, the annual fast day commemorating the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and our subsequent exile from Israel, is Sunday. According to tradition this day was started due to the sin of the twelve spies (Mishnah Taanit 4:6). The Israelites wept over the false report of the ten spies and in turn this day has become a day of weeping and misfortune.

In his amazing book Em HaBanim Semeichah Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal refutes the anti- Zionism of his Satmar Hungarian Orthodox upbringing and beautifully lays out a vision of redemption realized in a Jewish State of Israel. There he writes:

Our mentor, the Ari z”l, revealed to his disciple , Rabbi Chayim Vital z”l , that when one chooses a mitzvah for which a certain tzaddik sacrificed himself, the soul of that tzadikk comes to his aid. The author of Midrash Shmuel once entered the study hall and [the soul of] the Ari HaKadosh stood before him, as is well known. The same is true today. Yehoshua and Calev sacrificed themselves for aliyah. The entire Jewish nation wanted to stone them, but they said, Let us go up (Numbers 13:30). Similarly, if we sacrifice ourselves for aliyah, the souls of Yehoshua and Calev will come to our aid. This is as clear and true as the Torah of Moshe from the Almighty”.( Em HaBanim Semeichah) 

I was thinking about this deep Torah of Rabbi Teichtal when listening to Arik Einstein’s iconic Ani V’Ata. There he sings:

Ani V'Ata -You and I- We will change the world
You and I- then everyone will come
Others have said it before
It does not matter - You and I will change the world. ( Ani V'Ata)

The entire song assumes that two people can change the world. This echoes the words of Margaret Mead when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” But who are the other who have said it before?

Is it possible that the partnership was none other than Yehoshua and Calev. For most of Jewish history we have lamented our having ignored these voices. On one level Einstein is urging us to move past the tragedy of the spies to have hope. On another level he is inviting us to move past the idea of just having hoping for 2000 years. The Modern Jewish State is far from perfect, but it surely not just a dream. Ani V’Ata is a call to action. Will we be like the 10 bad spies or will we answer the call of Tisha B’Av? will you and I move from optimism to activism?

Other post on Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal

Juneteenth: When We Got the Message

One of my favorite mishnayot in Perkei Avot starts:

Rabbi  Yehoshua ben Levi said: every day a bat kol (a heavenly voice) goes forth from Mount Horev (Sinai)… ( Avot 6:2)

Surely Rabbi  Yehoshua ben Levi believed that there was an event of transmission of the Torah at Sinai. If it was a singular event, what did he mean? Is it the a same message going out from the Mount Horev daily or does that message change? If it does changes did he think that that revelation at Sinai was incomplete?  What are the implications of a daily progressive notion of revelation?

This idea seems to be connected to the teaching of Ben Bag Bag who taught:

Turn it over, and [again] turn it over, for all is therein. And look into it; And become gray and old therein; And do not move away from it, for you have no better portion than it. (Avot 5:22)

There was an event of revelation which is immutable and there is an additional mandate to help that message go forth and be turned into something that is relevant.  This work is not reserved for one period in our lives.  This is a daily practice that is year-round and life-long. While the Torah might have gone out at Sinai centuries ago, it is our work to make sure it is heard every day.

I was thinking about this on Thursday when President Joe Biden signed into law legislation establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a US federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday is the first federal holiday established since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983 and becomes at least the eleventh federal holiday recognized by the US federal government. The US Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday that most federal employees will observe the holiday today on Friday since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas, in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Only a handful of states currently observe Juneteenth as a paid holiday. (CNN)

17 Ideas for Teaching Juneteenth in the Classroom - WeAreTeachers

While that day was a revelation of a truth that we are all free and equal, it is clear that our society is still not living up to this promise of treating people equally. It has been 156 years and there is still much work for us to do every day to ensure that we are all living up to this truth. We can be happy that Juneteenth is a federal holiday and know that there still so much work to be done. What do we need to turn and turn again in our society to uproot systemic racism? what do we need to do to reform our police force that targets people of color? We still have so much work for do to deal with bias at every level of our society.

I am not sure what we need to do, but I know that we need to do more. I do want to offer one insight from Rabbi  Yehoshua ben Levi. In the same mishna he taught:

And it says, “And the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tablets” (Exodus 32:16). Read not harut [‘graven’] but herut [ ‘freedom’].( Avot 6:2)

Even when it is written in the law – harut that we are all free, there is still a lot of work to do to make sure we are actually all free- herut . We cannot hide behind the law, we need to do the daily work of making sure that we are living up to our aspiration and that all of us are safe and free. As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. taught:

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

This new occasion of Juneteenth reminds us that the revelation of freedom is incomplete until we all treat each other with respect and dignity.

-last year’s post on Juneteenth: Between Revelation and Relevance

Some great sources on the day I got from my colleague Rabbi Stacy Rigler:

RESOURCE LIST:

Read

Listen

Watch

We Need to Vent: Holding Complexity and Shelach

We all know what a Venn diagram is, but what is a Vent diagram? A Venn diagram is a widely-used image style that shows the logical relation between sets, popularized by John Venn in the 1880s. While that was helpful in math class, that is not what is most interesting to me. A Vent diagram as an image of the overlap of two statements that appear to be true and appear to be contradictory. You do not label the overlapping middle.  This is a collaborative social media and art project started by educator Elana Eisen-Markowitz and artist Rachel Schragis, two queer white Jews in Brooklyn in our 30s.   

As they write on their website:

Making vent diagrams as a practice helps us recognize and reckon with contradictions and keep imagining and acting from the intersections and overlaps. Venting is an emotional release, an outlet for our anger, frustration, despair — and as a vent enables stale, suffocating air to flow out, it allows new fresh air to cycle in and through. We’re trying to make “vents” in both senses of the word: tiny windows for building unity and power, emotional releases of stale binary thinking in order to open up a trickle of fresh ideas and air.

Here are some vent diagrams about vent diagrams… or, vents that best describe what this project is and why we’re doing it:

IMG_3458.JPG
2.JPG

I would encourage you to check out their sight for other examples. A good vent draws out a tension that we don’t have language for because that non-binary overlap isn’t really part of our public discourse yet.  

I was thinking about Vent diagrams this week while reading Shelach, this week’s Torah portion. There we learn that Moshe sends twelve spies to the land of Canaan. Forty days later they return, carrying a huge cluster of grapes, a pomegranate and a fig, to report on a lush and bountiful land. But ten of the spies warn that the inhabitants of the land are giants and warriors “more powerful than we”; only Caleb and Joshua insist that the land can be conquered, as God has commanded. Why did the spies give a bad report?

I think they needed to vent. These ten spies were not able to “recognize and reckon with contradictions”. Inspired by Elana Eisen-Markowitz and Rachel Schragis I made a Vent diagram for Shelach:

 

Like these ten spies many of us find ourselves navigating the complexity of two opposing truths. We all need to find a way to vent like Joshua and Caleb.


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