The government shutdown raises acute questions about the role and responsibility of leadership. We entrusted our fiscal and governing responsibility to people who cannot seem to execute it.
Is there a way out? Is there something the world’s oldest religion teach the leaders of the world’s most powerful nation? Absolutely.
1. Listen: All too often we simply do not listen. We hear what another person is saying, but we have already made up our mind. We seem to be listening when we are really awaiting our chance to speak.
Listening is not a passive act. It is a mode of communication. It shapes the way we look at the world.
Picture a person you know is a good listener. You probably respect them. You seriously consider what he they say.
Now picture someone you know just waits for their turn to speak. You probably dismiss what they say.
Unfortunately, our government seems to be filled with people in the second category. True leaders are listeners, and we need more of them.
2. Recognize the needs of the moment: The Book of Ecclesiastes has that beautiful series of verses: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven… a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up.”
When we look around us–when we see unpaid policemen at the US Capital putting their own lives on the line to protect civilians–we recognize it is not the time give up. It is not the time to blame. It is the time to act.
3. Do not give up hope: American politics has always been messy. The political parties of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams called one another traitors. In the nineteenth century fistfights broke out on the floor of the Congress. Yet, we found a way through.
If Judaism has any core lesson to teach, it is the centrality of hope. David Ben Gurion, the first President of Israel, called himself “an optimist against all better judgment.” I am optimistic (though it takes a lot of faith) that our leaders will use their better judgment.
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