Decision-Making in Organizations - YouTube

What a week! As we wait to hear the outcome of these unusual elections, I thought I'd spend some time going back to several consequential elections and decisions, taken by civilizations, as well as individuals, throughout Jewish history:

3831 BCE Adam and Eve, the first two humans created, are formed by G‑d from earth on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Within hours, they are faced with the decision of whether to heed G‑d's temporary ban on consuming the fruit of the 'Tree of Knowledge', or to cave to the words of the serpent - who at the time had the power of speech - and consume the fruit.

Their decision, though famously having them expelled from the Garden of Eden, is actually viewed as following G‑d's original plan for his world. For, as the Kabbalah explains, their decision introduced the power of the human being to recover and grow from his/her errors - a power far greater than not making mistakes in the first place.

2105 BCE Years went by, and the world had descended into throes of immorality. The one righteous man left, Noah, is instructed to build a great ark, in preparation for a flood that would engulf the world. 

Following on the legacy of 'it's-never-too-late-to-change', left by Adam and Eve, G‑d tells Noah to build the ark with his own hands alone, so the construction would drag on for years. Hopefully, Noah's corrupt peers would notice the bizarre ship, inquire of Noah as to why he was building it, and thus be encouraged to change their ways. Unfortunately they did not change. Their decision led to the entire world starting anew.

1813 BCE After the flood, civilization begins in what is known as the 'Fertile Crescent', the land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. King Nimrod, the first ruler of the area, chooses to establish himself as a deity as well as king - and those who disagree with him are severely punished. This unfortunate trend spread to nearly all kings and rulers for millennia afterwards, who often considered themselves to be deities. 

The founding father and mother of the Jewish people, Abraham and Sarah, were forced to flee King Nimrod's realm for modern day Turkey, after being the only ones to openly defy Nimrod, and believe in the one true G‑d.

1313 BCE The descendants of Abraham and Sarah are enslaved by the Pharaohs for eight decades. When freed in the miraculous story of Passover, the Talmud (Sifri, Deuteronomy 343) writes that the Jews are offered the Torah by G‑d. G‑d had offered the Torah to every other nation, who had rejected the offer. The Jews unanimously choose to accept G‑d's gift with the famous words, 'We will do, then we will understand' (נעשה ונשמע).

350 BCE A millennium passes. The Jews spend four decades in the desert, settle in the Promised Land, build the Temple in Jerusalem, have 49 kings rule them, see the Temple burned by Babylon, build a second one and all the while keep the Torah alive.

It is when they build this Second Temple, in the days of Athens and Sparta, that a large legislative body, the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah, is formed. They elect to institute set prayers thrice daily (lasting to this day), and establish the holiday of Purim, among other decisions.

70 CE Rome destroys this Second Temple, only shortly after the Roman vassal king, Herod, concluded a massive renovation of the Temple. 

In one of the greatest decisions in all of Jewish history, the Jews elect to keep Judaism alive and commit to preserving Jewish life, despite completely losing any semblance of a Jewish homeland. The leader who spearheaded the monumental effort to ensure that Judaism would survive in exile was Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai.

Around 800 CE The Jews center of gravity shifts to Persian-ruled Babylon for most of the first millennium. In a never-before and never-after repeated occurrence, the royalty of the state of the Khazars in the Caucusus, and much of the population, elects to convert to Judaism. A prominent book of Jewish philosophy, the 'Kuzari' (The Khazar), documents in detail the conversations between the Khazar king and a Jewish scholar, leading up to his decision to join the Jewish people.

1492 The same monarchs who acquiesce to fund the Italian Christopher Colombus' voyage, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, also enact the Alhambra Decree in that same year. The decree presented the thousand year old Jewish community in Spain with the harsh choice of conversion to Catholicism, or expulsion. 

Many choose to leave, leaving communities, homes, businesses and synagogues behind. Many of those who stay go underground, maintaining the Judaism in secret. These Spanish expats found 'Sephardic' (Spanish) Jewish communities around the world, lasting to this day.

1698 After the Medieval Crusades and 'Black Death' bubonic plague, when antisemitic mobs ravaged Ashkenazic (Western European) Jewry, many Jews fled eastward, settling in Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and the like. 

Poland was the powerhouse of the day. In 1648 the Ukrainian peasants rose up against their Polish oppressors. After defeating the Poles, the Ukrainian Cossack armies massacred hundreds of thousands of Jews in Eastern Europe, leaving utter destruction in their wake.

In 1698, the Baal Shem Tov was born. The Baal Shem Tov, seeing the sorry state of the Jews in the area, took another monumental decision. He began to publicly teach the deepest secrets of the Torah, previously studied by a tiny group of scholars. The goal was to use these powerful teachings to uplift and inspire the Jewish people after decades of hardships. 

It worked. By the dawn of WW2, the majority of the Jewish people worldwide were followers of the Baal Shem Tov's teachings.

The Baal Shem Tov's primary focus was on the inherent, infinite value of every single member of the Jewish people, no matter his or her background. That basic principle spurned the Chabad movement, which in turn lead to the writing of this email. As Jews, we have a long, rich history to celebrate, be proud of, and use as a guide for decisions we make throughout our lives.

Rabbi Avrohom