Simon Sinek lectures on the third most watched TedTalk with over 28 million views on Youtube. His message as a business consultant is that great leaders and great companies begin with the question, “Why?” And only once the “why” is answered do they move to the questions of “what” and “how.” Answering the “why” clarifies purpose and instills motivation. He cites Apple Computer as a model. Their “why” is “Everything we do, we challenge the status quo. We think differently.” The “what” and “how” emerge: “Our ‘what’ is that we make computers and our ‘how’ are computers that are easier to use.” Want to buy one?” Sinek emphasizes that leadership needs to work from the inside out, starting with the “why” and only then “what” and “how.”
We as a Jewish people are challenged demographically. We are only 2% of America and 2 % internationally. As Elie Wiesel would say, our small numbers globally are in the range of an acceptable accounting error. We have always been small in numbers and yet, survived and even thrived. We did so because of a clear “why.” We pointed to the Torah and said, “G-d has chosen us as a people to model righteousness and closeness to G-d. The “what” and “how” is by following the mitzvot G-d’s expectations of us.” Our challenge today, living in an open society with greater autonomy, is to clarify, “Why Judaism Matters.”
We may have different notions of G-d and the nature of mitzvot. And yet, we are invited to experience life’s unity and goodness and to see ourselves collectively called to model holiness. G-d in the Torah commands, “Kedoshim Tiheyu”- “You shall be Holy.” Holiness is to live with the perspective of a caring Divine parent and to seek elevation toward that Divine source of unity.
Judaism is alive and not frozen in time. The aspiration to live as a holy people, moving morality forward collectively and aspiring to see each person as “created in the image of G-d” is the “why.” Such a perspective was a challenge in the time of the Torah and the Talmud, and so remains in our own day. Much has changed across time economically and even culturally, but what endures is a yearning to connect deeply in relationships, to serve a cause greater than our selves, and to live a life of uplifted belonging.
Join me in that most Jewish of acts: conversing as to our purpose and meaning. I have prepared materials to evoke six conversations between you and friends to explore why Judaism matters in your life. Please consider accessing that material by going to the website (www.cbi18.org/events/small-groups-leading-a-life-of-significance/). Your conversations on “Why Judaism Matters” will strengthen your bond with the people you talk to and will enhance the “what” and “how” of your Jewish living.
Rabbi David Eliezrie is at Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen/Chabad. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.