Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use


Is Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Right?: A Jewish Perspective

In her new and controversial book Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg argues that women face a variety of unique challenges in achieving professional success. One of them is self-imposed, yet reinforced by the larger culture.

It is the hesitancy to “lean in,” to not let internal barriers–like feeling the false need to choose between success or family– hold them back from achieving the highest levels of success.

can women have it all, jewish
The impact of Sandberg’s books remains to be seen. What fascinates me, however, is that her enormous success and drive and passion about this issue has roots in her Jewish identity.

How early Jewish activism shaped her identity

In Time Magazine’s profile, we learn from her family’s history as “activists for Soviet Jews who were trying to immigrate from Israel.” Her parents urged her to stand up for the rights of a persecuted group, and do something to make the world a better place.

Over time that passion translated into government work and business success. It has now expanded into non-profit advocacy and teaching.

Following in giant footsteps

It also follows in the tradition of Jewish values. The role of women in Jewish life has been the subject of great discussion, and it varies between Reform and Orthodox Judaism. What unites them, however, is the belief that a commitment to family and to making a difference in the world are not at odds.

Here are two examples:

1. Sarah: In the Bible, Sarah is not only Abraham’s wife and the mother of Isaac and Ishmael. She is credited for bringing many people into the new religion with Abraham as they were journeying toward the Promised Land. She frequently protects Abraham from the wrath of local rulers with whom they have to negotiate. Her role is an immense and often underappreciated one.

2. Rebecca: The biblical Rebecca is an extraordinary character. Her passion and boldness become clear right when we meet her, as she volunteers to water the flock of Abraham’s messenger and invite him to her home, where she leaves with him over her father’s objection.

Her insight into her children and into the needs of the moment allow her to ensure the survival of the Jewish people.

Perfection is not the goal

Now these two examples should not lead us to believe that Judaism was always perfect and forward-looking in understanding gender roles. It evolves, as all faiths do. Yet, it provides a useful corrective to the kind of binary thinking often blocking us from wisdom.

Family and professional satisfaction are not at odds. They can reinforce one another. We will not be perfect in everything we do. Indeed, Jewish wisdom has taught this truth for milennia.

Yet, as Sandberg puts it, when we find the strength to lean in–when we do not get trapped in false choices–we can work and live in a way that is “sustaining and fulfilling.” May all of us–men and women alike–find that strength.

To see Rabbi Moffic’s new book, click here.



Previous Posts

God Never Gives Up Hope: A Prayer for Israel
 I remember my first visit to Israel in 1994. The Oslo Accords had just been signed. Hope reigned. My group was greeted warmly in the Arab market in Jerusalem. The opposite feelings prevail today. We witness bombings, indiscriminate hatred, vitriol. Dozens of my friends who are there now share w

posted 10:19:40pm Jul. 13, 2014 | read full post »

The Secret to Happiness? Let Life Surprise You
I remember sitting one day with my  three-year-old daughter. She had a book in her and was turning the pages and telling the story. This was her regular habit. She could not yet read the words, but she could tell the story based on the pictures. I had one ear listening to her voice and the ot

posted 4:23:22pm Jul. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Do Christians Need to Learn More About Judaism? A Rabbi Responds to the Pope
In the 1970s Alex Haley wrote the best-seller Roots. He sought to find the roots of his life as an African-American. Where did he come from? What experiences shaped who he was?   We all ask these questions. We seek not only geographic roots and ethnic roots. We look for spiritual roots. Where

posted 9:50:26pm Jul. 06, 2014 | read full post »

Why Do Jews Care So Much About Israel?
Last year I attended the Irish Fest in my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The music and ambience make it one of most unforgettable days of the year. Listening to a concert, I struck up a conversation with someone standing next to me. I told him I was a rabbi, and once we got past the usual

posted 1:40:08pm Jun. 22, 2014 | read full post »

In the Wake of the Kansas City Horror: The Life-Saving Power of Interfaith Conversation
This post was written with my friend and colleague, Reverend Lillian Daniel.  The late great Abraham Joshua Heschel was once asked why he devoted so much time to interfaith dialogue. He answering by recounting part of his family history. “When the Nazis came for my parents,” he wrote,

posted 1:56:25pm Apr. 16, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.