Posts Tagged 'Devarim'

Shabbat Hazon- A Vision Between Two Trees

Peter Senge, the change management guru, was right when he said, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!” Two stories from camps about the challenges and opportunities change provides offer insights into how change might work. Interestingly, both stories are about trees, which model the delicate balance of permanence and growth.
A Tale of Two Trees: Why We Are All Asking the Wrong Question ...

The first story goes that there was a new camp director at his first summer at camp. When he got there he was disturbed to discover a “gum tree” – a tree where all of the campers and staff would put their gum before Shabbat prayer. Feeling that this was gross and unsightly, he had the groundskeeper cut down the tree before the second Shabbat of the summer. Often, when people tell this story, they claim that the director was fired before the tree hit the ground. The tree was a part of their camp culture, and the camp director had broken their trust by cutting it down without consulting anyone from the community who could have helped him understand its significance. While there is a time and place for quick, responsive adjustments or shifts in policies and procedures, we do it at our own peril if we are not conscious and conscientious of the cultural context. In order to bring about change we need to have reverence for tradition.

The second story comes from Helene Drobenare, the longtime director of Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake. Once, when asked about the secret to her success in leadership, she told a story about a trip up to URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) in the winter early in her career. As she tells it, she and Jerry Kaye, the legendary director, were driving around camp and he stopped and made them get out of the car. It was freezing cold and all she could see was a thick forest of trees. Not understanding the significance of this moment, Helene asked Jerry what they were doing. He pulled out an old large map. Jerry said, “Look at this. It is the map of OSRUI from when I took over as the director.” Pointing out where they were standing, he continued, “See right here, this was an open field, but I wanted it to be a forest.” When Jerry retired last year he had been the director at OSRUI for close to half a century, and he’d left a thick forest as part of his legacy.

Between the two stories of two trees we can understand a profound lesson of change management. Camp maintains a depth of culture founded on a utopian sense of tradition. While short term wins are important, there are no shortcuts to changing culture. We can do almost anything we can imagine in a community or an organization as long as we have respect for the tradition we have inherited, have a clear vision for the future, and have the grit, gumption, and patience to see that field become a lush forest.

I was thinking about these stories and the centrality of having a clear vision in preparaton for this shabbat. The shabbat immediately preceding the Tisha B’Av which commenorates the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem is named Shabbat Hazon -the Shabbat of vision. The name comes from the start of the Haftarah we read this shabbat. After recounting heinous transgressions, the prophetic reading in  Isaiah 1:1-27 offers the hope of reconciliation, which will come when the people “cease to do evil, learn to do good.” On the eve of Tisha B’Av we see the changes in our future, both the good and bad and those done to us and by us. Our vision for the future will help us navigate these pivotal moments between these two stories of two trees. John F. Kennedy said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”  From where we sit, we know that we cannot lose sight of the majestic forests for a “gum tree.”

Worth Reviewing

This week we start reading the Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah.  At the start of Devarim, this week’s Torah portion and  we read:

These are the words which Mosche spoke unto all Israel beyond the Jordan; in the wilderness, in the Arabah, over against Suf, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Di-zahab. It is eleven days journey from Horev unto Kadesh-barnea by the way of mount Seir. And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Mosche spoke unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the Lord had given him in commandment unto them; ( Deuteronomy 1:1-3)

The entire book of Deuteronomy is a retrospective of what happened to the Israelite people in the previous 40 years. Deuteronomy, the name of the book in English itself, literally means “second law”. The whole book is a repeating of the stories we have learned about in the previous three books of the Torah. It must be important if it is worth saying twice. As we start this book it is interesting to reflect on what is worth reviewing?

I was thinking about this recently when I ran into a colleague in the Non-For Profit Jewish world in Penn Station late at night on my home from a visiting camps. My colleague was leaving New York after a conference here in the city and had some time to kill before his train. We took this chance meeting as a chance to catch up. Both of us live our lives as observant Jews working for the larger Jewish community. It is interesting in that neither of us grew up that way. In this context it seemed completely natural when he asked me to share my story. He wanted to know how my Jewish journey got me to where I am today.

The first story that came to mind was a memory I have from 1993 when I was a student at Yeshivat HaMivtar. Every Wednesday Rabbi Dovid Ebner would give a Mussar class after lunch. It was the highlight of my week. Rabbi Ebner has a vast knowledge of the Jewish canon and the human soul. In the tapestries of his talks he was able to weave together strands from all over the Bayt Midrash into a stunning and inspiring works of art. Still to this day I feel that his profound truths impact me. While I do not recall the larger topic he was speaking on during the day in question I fondly recall one class. He often brought quotes from a wide diversity of Traditional Jewish sources, but that day Rabbi Ebner said, “The other day I was doing hazara on Catcher in the Rye.” Hazara is the traditional practice of relearning canonical works that are worth reviewing. I remember that moment so well. Rabbi Ebner invited me into the Bayt Midrash in a way I had not felt in the past. I did not have to give up other libraries to show up and be present. The opposite was true. I actually felt and still feel a profound sense of obligation to the entire library of the human experience. Why couldn’t J. D. Salinger be in conversation with the Rambam? If they could both be there, maybe I also should be there. That was the moment that I recall metaphorically pushing all of my chips into the middle of the table. I was all-in for a Modern Orthodoxy that saw that truth regardless of its origin or artistic expression was worthy of review.

We are what is worth prioritize to review. In the process we create memory and meaning. With our starting the book of Deuteronomy I pause to reflect what is worth our review?

 

 


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 204 other followers

Archive By Topic


%d bloggers like this: