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Parshat Mishpatim

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The Malbim makes a similar point in his commentary on Tehillim chapter 24. The verse asks: “Who will ascend the mountain of G-d? And who will stand in His holy place?” The Malbim explains that the question “Who will ascend the mountain of G-d?” refers to a person who momentarily reaches spiritual heights. The question “Who will stand in His holy place?” refers to a person who will maintain these spiritual heights permanently. Both the Kotsker and the Malbim underscore the importance of sustaining gains and avoiding spiritual Pyrrhic victories. A spiritual experience that is not sustained will often cause more spiritual damage in the long-run.

Leaders must bear this lesson in mind. Victories and successes are important. But sustaining these successes is even more important. Achieving unsustainable victories is often a waste of resources and effort. Understanding this will alert leaders to pay attention to the often precarious gains achieved and redouble their focus to ensure that these gains become permanent. It is good advice to remember the words of General David Patraeus in his report to Congress regarding the “Surge” in Iraq. He opined that the initial gains were both “fragile and reversible.” Only by realizing the fragile and reversible nature of gains can leaders transform them into the new permanent landscape.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division and is an adjunct assistant professor of History at Touro College.


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