Friends: In this week's Shabbat message, my colleague Heather Rubin Fiedler, Federation’s Vice President of Jewish Education and Leadership, reflects on the why of our Jewish community — why we do what we do, why we seek the deeper meaning, and why, as Jews, we consistently strive toward holiness. I hope you find it as inspiring and enriching as I do. Shabbat shalom! - David Waren, President & CEO
I love TED Talks. Some may consider them pop science, but I view them as a place to begin exploring a given topic. Among my favorite TED Talks is Simon Sinek’s talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” Marketer, author, and inspirational speaker Sinek explains that the best leaders — and the most successful companies — begin by taking a deep look at why their organization exists or why they get out of bed in the morning. According to Sinek, the why is the most important aspect of one’s personal and professional life.
It is in this light that I read this week’s double parasha (Torah portion): Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. Although Sinek’s theory seems novel, the Torah had it figured out millennia ago. As Jews, we are taught to ask questions, understand motivations, and seek the deeper meanings. In other words, we are taught to find our why. G-d tells Moses the why in the second verse of parashat Kedoshim:
Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them:
You shall be holy, for I, the L-RD your G-d, am holy. (Leviticus 19:2)
So, why do we Jews get up in the morning? Why do we do mitzvot (good deeds) and build Jewish community? Because we are commanded to emulate G-d’s holiness.
Kedoshim gives us many real-life examples of emulating G-d’s holiness: leave the corners of your field unpicked so that the poor may eat; deal fairly with people in business; treat your fellow person as you would want to be treated; show deference and respect to the elderly and strangers.
You can see this commandment at work at Federation and across our entire Jewish community. We strive to work and live with the same goals in mind, in pursuit of holiness. Our synagogues, agencies, and schools each play a unique and essential role in this pursuit. Supporting those in need, developing relationships with those outside of our community, welcoming new residents, ensuring that individuals and institutions have what they need to succeed, and perpetuating Jewish education and values are just a few of the ways we work toward holiness together.
There is no doubt this past year has been a challenge. But we should all feel proud of what our Jewish community has accomplished collectively as we have worked toward holiness during this difficult time. Through good and bad, together, we are truly living our why.
Heather Rubin Fiedler
Vice President, Jewish Education and Leadership
Director, Jewish Leadership Academy
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford
Photo caption: Simon Sinek gives his TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” Image courtesy of TED.