web analytics
April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Parshat Behar-Bechukosai


Hertzberg-050313

Share Button

The author and social advocate Upton Sinclair was a colorful person. A writer in many genres and one time losing candidate in the California gubernatorial election (1934) Sinclair had a quick wit and knack for turning out a sharp phrase. One of his most famous quotes regarding his election postmortem was, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.” Cognitive psychologists point out that this is an early, though crude, formulation of the confirmation bias.

Chip and Dan Heath in their new book on decision-making, Decisive: How To Make Better Choices In Life and Work (2013), argue that the confirmation bias is one of the most dangerous traps decision-makers experience. People tend to search for and give greater weight to evidence that supports and confirms their already held beliefs. Evidence that questions their beliefs is dismissed and discounted.

“When people have the opportunity to collect information from the world, they are more likely to select information that supports their preexisting attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Political partisans seek out media outlets that support their side but will rarely challenge their beliefs by seeking out the other side’s perspective. Consumers who covet new cars or computers will look for reasons to justify the purchase but won’t be as diligent about finding reasons to postpone it” (pp.11-12).

History is replete with examples of leaders who fell victim to the confirmation bias and made terrible decisions. How then can leaders defend against it? The story is told about Alfred Sloan, the CEO of General Motors, who in the middle of a meeting where everybody was in agreement, stopped the discussion and said: “I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what this decision is about” (pp.94-95). Sloan realized something was wrong. If everybody was in agreement then something was being overlooked. He therefore challenged his management team to take some time and think things through.

Among the effective tools in combating this bias is questioning one’s assumptions, considering alternate scenarios and appointing somebody to be a devil’s advocate. Use of these tools will force people to confront the question of whether they simply believe what they want to believe.

The dangers of the confirmation bias can be seen in this week’s parsha in the section of the tochacha. The Torah states (26:21) that if Bnei Yisrael walk with Hashem b’keri then G-d will punish them severely. The Torah further states (26:23-24) that if after all these punishments Bnei Yisrael still persist in walking with Hashem b’keri then G-d will punish them seven-fold for their sins. In order to understand what Bnei Yisrael’s sin is we must first understand what the word keri in this context means.

Rashi (pasuk 21) states in his first explanation that it means that Bnei Yisrael will be inconsistent in their mitzvah observance. They will only occasionally observe the commandments, ostensibly when it is convenient and in their immediate interest. In his second explanation Rashi quotes from R. Menachem that it refers to their obstinate insistence in avoiding the fulfillment of mitzvot. Accordingly, Hashem’s response to them is measure for measure in that He will at most occasionally intercede on their behalf, if at all.

Rav Aharon Greenberg, in his anthology Iturei Torah, quotes an incisive explanation in the name of Rav Tzadok. Rav Tzadok suggests that the word keri when employed in verse 24 means random. In other words Bnei Yisrael’s sin is that despite the bad things they experienced as punishment for their lackluster commitment to the mitzvot they did not mend their ways. In fact, what they did was attribute the bad things that happened to them to happenstance. Rather than perceive them as divine retribution they viewed them as random occurrences with no connection to their actions. In other words, they were trapped by the confirmation bias. All evidence that indicated divine punishment was dismissed while all evidence indicating random coincidence was accepted. Such an attitude can only lead to further punishments. Only after extreme suffering will Bnei Yisrael finally have to admit the divine origin of what has happened to them.

Nearly all of us are subject to this bias and while it is dangerous for everyone, it is especially pernicious for leaders whose decisions impact their followers and organizations. Acknowledging its existence is the first step to countering its negative influence. The confirmation bias supports the notion that in life we often find what we look for, which is what we want to find. Leaders must search for what they don’t want to find as well.

Share Button

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Comments can be emailed to him at mdrabbi@aol.com.


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.

No Responses to “Parshat Behar-Bechukosai”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
BDS targets Zabar's; Carole Zabar promotes BDS proponents.
All in the Family: BDS Protests Zabars; Carole Zabar Promotes BDS
Latest Judaism Stories
Reiss-041814-King

Amazingly, each and every blade was green and moist as if it was just freshly cut.

PTI-041814

All the commentaries ask why Hashem focuses on the Exodus as opposed to saying, “I am Hashem who created the entire world.”

Leff-041814

Someone who focuses only on the bones of the Torah makes his bones dry and passionless.

The following is President Obama’s statement on Passover (April 14, 2014). As he has in the past, the President held an official Passover Seder at the White House. Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world. On Tuesday, just as we […]

The tendency to rely on human beings rather than G-d has been our curse throughout the centuries.

“Who is wise? One who learns from each person” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

In Judaism, to be without questions is a sign not of faith, but of lack of depth.

“I’ll try to help as we can,” said Mr. Goodman, “but we already made a special appeal this year. Let me see what other funds we have. I’ll be in touch with you in a day or two.”

Rashi is bothered by the expression Hashem used: “the Jews need only travel.”

Reckoning Time
‘Three Festivals, Even Out Of Order’
(Beizah 19b)

Two husbands were there to instruct us in Texas hold ‘em – and we needed them.

Question: Why do we start counting sefirat ha’omer in chutz la’aretz on the second night of Pesach when the omer in the times of the Beit Hamikdash was cut on Chol HaMoed?

M. Goldman
(Via E-Mail)

A few background principles regarding the prohibitions of chametz mixtures on Pesach may provide some shopping guidance.

According to the Rambam, the k’nas applies to any chametz on Pesach with which one could, in theory, transgress the aveirah – even if no transgression actually occurred.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

More Articles from Rabbi David Hertzberg
Hertzberg-032814

Without a plan of action, a leader will never be able to lead his followers anywhere, no matter how important the destination or lofty the goal.

Hertzberg-022814-Chaos

Like Dempsey and Gates, leaders must always be cognizant of the costs involved in their decisions – even when the costs are less than human life

G-d, accordingly, is encouraging Moshe to not just focus on reaching the top of the spiritual mountain but remaining there as well, thus fully capitalizing on his gains.

Moshe’s name would forever remind him of the kindness that Pharaoh’s daughter did for him by taking him out of the Nile, and serve as a lodestar to him as he interacts with his people.

Having come to the conclusion that nobody was more qualified than Yosef to lead Egypt in anticipation of and during the approaching famine, Pharaoh appointed him prime minister. This appointment made Yosef the second most powerful man in Egypt.

Esav truly thought he was getting the better part of the deal. He considered that as a hunter, whose life is constantly at risk, it was likely he would die before his father anyway. Therefore, when an opportunity to sell the birthright presented itself he jumped at it and immediately profited from the sale.

Though history offers no hard and fast laws like we find in physics, it does provide us with some guidelines. One of the most important is that when it comes to making plans, “the enemy gets a vote” or as Winston Churchill put it: “However absorbed a commander may be in the elaboration of his own thoughts, it is necessary sometimes to take the enemy into consideration.”

Peter Drucker famously said, “Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.” Sadly, history is replete with examples of leaders who have not only ignored this principle, but who have lost focus of their immediate goals. By doing so, they not only fail to think about the second and third layers of effects, but they fail to consider the possibility of unintended consequences.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-behar-bechukosai/2013/05/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: