August 29, 2015
A president or a prime minister is the leader of a nation but he is also an employee. His salary is being paid by all the citizens of the land and, at least in theory, he must answer to we the people or else we the people can fire him.
Is one a leader or an employee, or something in between?
In the old days there were kings were ruled by "divine right", they truly believed that God had chosen them and their family line to rule forever. Those days are pretty much over with. We choose our leaders and they work for us, but they also must guide us.
So when we look at our political leaders, our spiritual and religious leaders, and our martial arts leaders, we must ask; employee or leader, or both?
Lets take a look at rabbis. In the "Old Country" (Europe before the war) there was no question. The rabbi was the leader. If a rabbi was already well known the congregation would simply send him a request asking if he would be willing to assume leadership of their community. If he was lesser known the rabbi might be invited for a Sabbath. He would speak to the people, deliver a sermon, conduct services and teach classes, and then the community would make a decision.
Once the decision was made and the new rabbi was chosen, that was it. Now he became the undisputed leader. His word was the word of God and it would be followed by all.
Yes, his salary was being paid by the community, every man must eat, but he was never regarded as an "employee" as such.
In Israel this is still the model. In large communities the rabbi's salary is paid by the municipality and in smaller communities it is often a volunteer job. The rabbi makes his living by teaching. But outside of Israel, in the more modern atmosphere, this has changed. In many places it is made clear to the rabbi that he must follow, not lead.
My father had a rabbinical colleague years ago who lost his job. He was fired. This rabbi had served his congregation faithfully for many years but times were changing. This was in California. The rabbi was told to adapt the religion to the changing desires of the members. The rabbi refused to comply.
When the rabbi was fired a letter was sent out to the members explaining this decision. The words were shocking. "The rabbi was fired because he refused to see himself as an employee of the synagogue. He imagined himself to be the leader."
Whoa to the congregation that refuses to be led.
In the traditional arts there was the do, the way. The teacher, the sensei, was seen as the guide, the leader. But now is the sensei your employee? Are you his student or his client? Is he just being hired to do a job?
Do you treat your teacher as an employee or as a revered master? Does he need to answer to you, or you to him? Should you treat e mails from him as important, or ...I will get to it when I can?
I always have, and still do, treat my teachers as parental figures, with the utmost respect. My students know that when Itay would call me I take the call, during class or at any time. And if he needed me to teach a class my students knew that I would go, and one of my students would fill in for me at our school. That is how you treat a teacher. Respect.
When I speak to my teacher on the phone, I stand! Respect.
Ultimately it is your choice; student or client, teacher or employee, rabbi or some guy who we pay to work at the synagogue.
Your choice will be a reflection of you who are, and in what circles you will be welcome.
All great rabbis were the disciples of great teachers. This is how our tradition continues to be passed on for more than 3,000 years, unbroken despite endless persecution.
Don't break the chain.
Moses received the Torah from Mt. Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly.
..and so it continues to our very day....