web analytics
November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Education: the Key to Success

Rabbi Sacks

To gain insight into the unique leadership lesson of this week’s parshah, I often ask an audience to perform a thought-experiment. Imagine you are the leader of a people that have suffered exile for more than two centuries, and has been enslaved and oppressed. Now, after a series of miracles, it is about to go free. You assemble them and rise to address them. They are waiting expectantly for your words. This is a defining moment they will never forget. What will you speak about?

Most people’s answer: freedom. That was Abraham Lincoln’s decision in the Gettysburg Address when he invoked the memory of “a new nation, conceived in liberty,” and looked forward to “a new birth of freedom.” Some suggest that they would inspire the people by talking about the destination that lay ahead, the “land flowing with milk and honey.” Yet others say they would warn the people of the dangers and challenges that they would encounter on what Nelson Mandela called “the long walk to freedom.”

Any of these would have been the great speech of a great leader. Guided by God, Moses did none of these things. That is what made him a unique leader. If you examine the text in parshat Bo you will see that three times he reverted to the same theme: children, education, and the distant future.

And when your children ask you, “What do you mean by this rite?” you shall say, “It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, because He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when he smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses” (Exodus 12:26-27).

And you shall explain to your child on that day, “It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt” (Exodus 13:8).

And when, in time to come, your child asks you what this means you shall say to him, “It was with a mighty hand that the Lord brought us out from Egypt, the house of bondage” (Exodus 13:14).

It is one of the most counterintuitive acts in the history of leadership. Moses did not speak about today or tomorrow. He spoke about the distant future and the duty of parents to educate their children. He even hinted – as Jewish tradition understood – that we should encourage our children to ask questions, so that the handing on of the Jewish heritage would be not a matter of rote learning but of active dialogue between parents and children.

So Jews became the only people in history to predicate their very survival on education. The most sacred duty of parents was to teach their children. Pesach itself became an ongoing seminar in the handing on of memory. Judaism became the religion whose heroes were teachers and whose passions were study and the life of the mind. The Mesopotamians built ziggurats. The Egyptians built pyramids. The Greeks built the Parthenon. The Romans built the Coliseum. Jews built schools. That is why they alone, of all the civilizations of the ancient world, are still alive and strong, still continuing their ancestors’ vocation, their heritage intact and undiminished.

Moses’s insight was profound. He knew that you cannot change the world by externalities alone, by monumental architecture, or armies and empires, or the use of force and power. How many empires have come and gone while the human condition remains untransformed and unredeemed?

There is only one way to change the world, and that is by education. You have to teach children the importance of justice, righteousness, kindness and compassion. You have to teach them that freedom can only be sustained by the laws and habits of self-restraint. You have to continually remind them of the lessons of history, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt,” because those who forget the bitterness of slavery eventually lose the commitment and courage to fight for freedom. And you have to empower children to ask, challenge and argue. You have to respect them if they are to respect the values you wish them to embrace.

This is a lesson most cultures still have not learned after more than three thousand years. Revolutions, protests and civil wars still take place, encouraging people to think that removing a tyrant or having a democratic election will end corruption, create freedom, and lead to justice and the rule of law – and still people are surprised and disappointed when it does not happen. All that happens is a change of faces in the corridors of power.

In one of the great speeches of the 20th Century, a distinguished American justice, Judge Learned Hand, said:

“I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.”

What God taught Moses was that the real challenge does not lie in gaining freedom; it lies in sustaining it, keeping the spirit of liberty alive in the hearts of successive generations. That can only be done through a sustained process of education. Nor is this something that can be delegated away to teachers and schools. Some of it has to take place within the family, at home, and with the sacred obligation that comes from religious duty. No one ever saw this more clearly than Moses, and only because of his teachings have Jews and Judaism survived.

What makes leaders great is that they think ahead, worrying not about tomorrow but about next year, or the next decade, or the next generation. In one of his finest speeches Robert F. Kennedy spoke of the power of leaders to transform the world when they have a clear vision of a possible future. Here are his words:

“Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery, against ignorance, or injustice and violence. Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and 32-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal. ‘Give me a place to stand,’ said Archimedes, ‘and I will move the world.’ These men moved the world, and so can we all.”

Visionary leadership forms the text and texture of Judaism. It is written in the book of Proverbs (29:18): “Without a vision [chazon] the people perish.” That vision in the minds of the prophets was always of a long-term future. God told Ezekiel that a prophet is a watchman, one who climbs to a high vantage point so he can see the danger in the distance, before anyone else is aware of it at ground level (Ezekiel 33:1-6). The Sages said, “Who is wise? One who sees the long-term consequences [ha’nolad].” Two of the greatest leaders of the 20th Century, Winston Churchill and David Ben-Gurion, were also distinguished historians. Knowing the past, they could anticipate the future. They were like chess masters who, because they have studied thousands of games, recognize almost immediately the dangers and possibilities in any configuration of the pieces on the board. They know what will happen if you make this move or that move.

If you want to be a great leader in any field, from prime minister to parent, it is essential to think long-term. Never choose the easy option because it is simple or fast or yields immediate satisfaction. You will pay a high price in the end.

Moses was the greatest leader because he thought further ahead than anyone else. He knew that real change in human behavior is the work of many generations. Therefore we must place as our highest priority educating our children in our ideals so that what we begin they will continue until the world changes because we have changed. He knew that if you plan for a year, plant rice. If you plan for a decade, plant a tree. If you plan for posterity, educate a child. Moses’ lesson, thirty-three centuries old, is still compelling today.

About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Education: the Key to Success”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Does this look like a pro-Israel group?
Minnesota Univ. Student Official Compares Group Backing Israel with KKK
Latest Judaism Stories
Rabbi Sacks

Simply too many cases of prayers being answered to deny it makes a difference to our fate. It does.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Prayer is our language: Hakol kol Yaakov – the voice is the voice of Jacob – the voice of prayer.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of theYeshivat Chovevei Torah. Rabbi Asher Lopatin will be replacing him as head of the school.

Jacob cries, overcome by the knowledge that his great love for Rachel will end in unbearable pain.

Vayeitzei_lecture

There’s a perfect mirror between Jacob running away from Esav to when he reunites with his brother.

Yitzhak called you Esav and you answered him, then he called you Yaakov and you also answered him!”

Yitzchak thought the Jewish people needed dual leadership: Eisav the physical; Yaakov the spiritual

According to the Sefer Yetzirah, the nature of the month of Kislev is sleep.

Though braggarts come across as conceited, their boasting often reflects a low sense of self-regard

Not every child can live up to our hopes or expectations, but every child is loved by Hashem.

Leaders must always pay attention to the importance of timing.

While our leaders have been shepherds, the vast majority of the Children of Israel were farmers.

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

If a man dies childless, the Torah commands the deceased’s brother to marry his brother’s widow in a ceremony known as yibum, or to perform a special form of divorce ceremony with her known as chalitzah.

Dovid turned to the other people sitting at his table. “I’m revoking my hefker of the Chumash,” he announced. “I want to keep it.”

Ever Vigilant
‘When Unworthy, One’s Number Of Years Is Reduced’
(Yevamos 50a)

Question: My young daughter was recently diagnosed with autism. She does not function well socially and is extremely introverted, but we have noticed that she reacts very well to small animals. We reported this to her therapist who suggested that we get a dog or cat as a pet. We know that most religious people frown upon having pets, but we hate to see our daughter suffer and want to do anything that would make her happy. Would it be okay to own a pet in the circumstances we described?

Her Loving Parents
(Via E-Mail)

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

Simply too many cases of prayers being answered to deny it makes a difference to our fate. It does.

Rabbi Sacks

When Jacob was chosen, Esau was not rejected; G-d does not reject.

Between Judaism and Islam there can be friendship and mutual respect as Abraham loved both his sons.

God wanted to establish the principle that children are not the property of their parents.

The Babel story is the 2nd in a 4-act drama that’s unmistakably a connecting thread of Bereishit

The emphasis on choice, freedom and responsibility is a most distinctive features of Jewish thought.

Sukkot’s duality is that it’s the most universalistic and the most particularistic of all festivals

When we cry from the heart, someone listens; When we cry on Yom Kippur, God hears us.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/education-the-key-to-success/2014/01/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: