Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
“Iceberg, right ahead.” With those words, the Titanic’s lookout Frederick Fleet warned the crew on the ship’s bridge of the imminent threat. In classic British fashion, Sixth Officer Moody thanked Fleet and turned to First Officer Murdoch, who was in charge of the watch, and repeated the warning.
Despite Murdoch’s best efforts to take evasive action, in less than a minute from the initial warning, the great ship struck the iceberg. The ship was moving too fast and was too large to change its course quickly enough. The time of the collision was 11:40 p.m. April 14, 1912. By 2:20 a.m. April 15, the greatest ship ever built had sunk beneath the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Fifteen- hundred people went down with the ship. Just over 700 survived.
The tragedy of the Titanic is that it didn’t have to happen. Captain Smith, the ship’s master, had received multiple warnings of ice throughout the day.
9:00 a.m.: The ship Caronia reported ice.
1:42 p.m.: The ship Baltic reported ice.
1:45 p.m.: The ship Amerika reported ice.
7:30 p.m.: The ship Californian reported ice.
Nonetheless, the captain maintained full speed, which made it harder to stop the ship in an emergency. In the captain’s defense, it must be pointed out that standard practice in 1912 was to try to traverse an ice field as quickly as possible. Additionally, since this was the Titanic’s maiden voyage, the captain and crew were not fully familiar with the ship. Having commanded smaller ships in the past, the captain may have assumed that the Titanic was as maneuverable as they were. Lastly, with expert lookouts on board, the captain felt that any iceberg posing a threat could be seen early enough to avoid it.
However, there seems to have been an overriding reason for the captain’s relatively passive response to the ice warnings. His judgment was impaired due to pressure from Bruce Ismay, the Titanic’s parent company chairman, to reach New York ahead of schedule. In truth, we will never know for sure, since Captain Smith went down with the ship and Ismay, who survived, denied actually pressuring the captain. However, historians feel that it is safe to say that Captain Smith focused on the long-range goal of reaching New York quickly at the expense of the more immediate goal of navigating his ship safely through the ice threat.
Leaders of organizations constantly find themselves needing to balance their strategic vision with their immediate tactical needs. For example, as a society, how do we balance the need to invest resources in long-term medical research with the need to allot resources to current medical issues? Do we invest money in cancer research or buy more ambulances to reduce the response time to medial emergencies? From this week’s parshah we can glean some guidance.
The Torah relates (6:9) that Bnei Yisrael didn’t listen to Moshe due to their “shortness of spirit and hard labor.” Moshe felt that they didn’t listen to him because he was a failed leader. If the Jews didn’t listen to him how would Pharaoh listen to him? G-d, however, ordered Moshe, nonetheless, to approach Pharaoh. According to the Meshech Chachmah, G-d explained to Moshe that his lack of success was not due to his inability to lead effectively, but rather to a tactical error.
In passuk 8, Moshe informed Bnei Yisrael that they would enter and inherit the land of Israel. It was in response to this “vision” that Bnei Yisrael responded with indifference. According to the Meshech Chachmah, G-d explained to Moshe that people who are slaves are not interested in long-term visions. They are interested in one thing – improving their present condition. Why think about tomorrow if we can’t escape the problems of today. Therefore, G-d instructed Moshe to currently talk to Bnei Yisrael only about ending the slavery.
This approach is reflected in passuk 13 when G-d commanded Moshe to tell Pharaoh to let the Jews go. Only after Moshe succeeded in ending (or at the very least lessening) the bondage, would he be able to excite Bnei Yisrael with the vision of their future in the land of Israel.
In a similar vein the Malbim explains the passuk in Tehillim (119:105), “Your words are a candle for my feet and an illumination for my paths.” The illumination represents the ideal vision – the path of Torah. But the path is full of little obstacles that, if not overcome, will prevent a person from following the path. The candle, which helps a person to see right in front of him, enables one to avoid the immediate obstacles. In this case, the candle represents the Torah and mitzvot. Like the Meshech Chachmah, the Malbim emphasizes the need to balance long and short term needs.
The lesson for leaders is obvious. While a leader must have a vision, he must build credibility with his followers by addressing their immediate needs. As those needs are addressed, he can then encourage them to buy into his vision and commit their support to its realization. However, at no time can the march towards the vision neglect immediate needs that if not met will prevent the vision from being realized.
The added tragedy of the Titanic is that, had the ship been going even a little more slowly, or had the lookouts spotted the iceberg merely 30 seconds earlier, the collision would have been avoided. Unfortunately, an historical “what if” matters little in the face of an historical “what was.” Captain Smith failed as a leader that fateful night. He kept his eye on the destination while neglecting to look at what was right in front of him.
Rabbi David Hertzberg is the Principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Questions and comments can be e-mailed to him at Mdrabbi@aol.com.
About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division. Comments can be emailed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Sometimes, like the tamei individual who must stay away from the Mikdash, we have our limits and disabilities, and we must remember not to attempt those goals which are beyond our reach.
Such a misunderstanding would render our words worthless, for we would not be declaring that Hashem is truly the Master of the Universe.
Operating the crane is Joe. Joe is overweight and a chain smoker. Another worker approaches Joe and says, “Joe, look at you! 80 pounds overweight, smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. You must do something about your health. Go the gym, work out, and get in shape.”
A Grafted Esrog
‘Passul When Missing Even a Tiny Bit’
The day after Purim, Mordechai Freilich received the mishloach manos package with a note: “This mishloach manos was meant to be delivered on Purim, but delayed due to the storm. Please accept our apologies.”
Esther’s name, which means “hidden,” reminds us that at the outset she hides her Jewish identity.
Nasi is the generic word for a leader: a ruler, king, judge, elder, or prince. Usually it refers to the holder of political power.
He exhorted all of us to continue to reach out to one another each and every day because that is what our tafkid (life’s goal) should be. And because that is what Hashem requires of us.
My ex despises me and is bent on destroying me. He has done everything to torture me.
Rav Akiva Eiger questions why semicha is considered a mitzvas assei she’hazman gramma. While it is true that it must be performed during the daytime, this is not because the semicha per se cannot be performed by night.
Question: When performing a mitzvah, what is more important: doing it right away – “zerizim” – or doing it with a large crowd – “berov am”?
Although the Torah only commands us to pick up the arba minim, the rabbis require that we wave them in all four directions of the compass as well as upward and downward.
Besides the lack of appreciation and understanding on the part of knesset Yisrael, Sefer Vayikra has been derided and held in contempt by the nations of the world and other religions.
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
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.
Our rabbis teach that the first step of repentance is ackowledging our sins and errors. If we feel that our behavior is on the right track then by definition we will fail to identify our shortcomings. Sadly, then our repentance will never leave the start gate.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-vaeira-2/2007/01/17/
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