This summer, I was driving with a man that listened to motivational speakers sometimes. I remember one of them saying “Are you running your own business? What kind of person are you? Are you the kind of person who’s a true leader? Who’s a go-getter? Who changes the world? If you are, then you need to …” The speaker then went on to talk about hard work, determination, not giving up, seizing opportunities, and so forth. Me, I stayed with the question.
Am I a leader? I did, especially in my youth, want to be. I wanted to revolutionize the teaching world and be the next Maria Montessori and make school better (because school doesn’t have to be THAT stupid, does it?) I had some dreams. Now, I find myself listening carefully to the “what makes a leader” speech and shuddering a little. I don’t want to be a leader. I love what I do now – I teach math, with humour and an appreciation that school must be precisely that stupid – cope, everyone. I parent, with worry about the kids growing up OK, and read comics about parenting because I do that too.
I am trying, hard, to be “the best Anna”. You know the story – Rabbi Zusya is crying bitterly and when his students compare his great wisdom to the greatest prophets of the past, he says to them “but HaShem, on judgement day, won’t ask me why I wasn’t more like Abraham or more like Moses, just why I wasn’t more like Zusya.” This year, I feel I’ve come a little closer, I think, to becoming the best Anna. I know that doesn’t include being a “true leader” and revolutionizing the universe – I just need to do the next thing that helps my students and my children.
As I accept who I am, I enjoy myself more in the world. It’s easier to see that actually, this world was created for me to enjoy it – and that means that if I think of my job or my home life as miserable, then I might not be fulfilling our best selves. It seems simple but it’s a big thing – to reconfigure my goals to suit who I am, and then slowly, to reconfigure my life to suit who I am. I will do what I can to accomplish this. I know I’ve a long way to go – but if I can choose goals that help me be “the best Anna”, then I can succeed more certainly every day.
Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.
Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.
Today is day forty seven, which is six weeks and five days of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim v’sheva she hem shisha shavuot ve hamisha yamim laOmer.
Today is Hod be Malkhut, gratitude within majesty, acceptance within presence
Today, I am grateful for the kings and queens – the leaders of our world. I don’t mean polititians – I mean the successful people who are good at something and who just get things done, the ones that plan properly and act when the time is right. You know those people, right? The one who was in the giften program, the arts-based program and the athletics program all at the same time, and volunteered, took care of an ill family member, had an active social life and STILL was a genuinely nice human being? The one who finished the dissertation early, while regularly participating in marathons, the CN tower climb and Habitat for Humanity? The one who successfully manages the four small children and the job and still holds weekly dinner parties? You know that person! They are our leaders. And I am grateful for them.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t always like them! They are annoying. First, they tell me what to do, and often – how to do it. Sure, they’re often right but that doesn’t make it less annoying – if anything more! Then they notice and correct my mistakes. Even if they’re nice enough to say nothing, they still show me up just by existing. I’m doing the best I can, true, but their best is better. Also, they have that look – that half pity, half amazement that someone so slow could exist, half irritation at having to deal with it, half self-righteous satisfaction that they’re right and I’m wrong. (I am well aware there are a few too many halfs. Now you’re nagging me about grammar too?)
But I am still grateful for them. They step up. They make dreams into a reality and they make the reality a better one. They encourage and support me and goad me to higher achievement, greater excellence and more long-term satisfaction. They make a difference and ensure I have or at least have access to the things I need – and the things I desire. So, annoying as they are, I am grateful.
Today, I am grateful for the leaders in this world. I strive to be more like them so that someday, someone else can list me in the category of annoying but inspirational and useful.
Today is day forty three, which is six weeks and one day of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim v’shalosh she hem shisha shavuot ve yom ehad laOmer.
Today is Khesed be Malkhut, kindness within majesty, grace within nobility
This is the last week of the Omer and today, we might as well look at what Malkhut is trying to tell us because Malkhut in modern day times doesn’t seem to be well understood or appreciated. Most people think of the ruling, bossy, yelly aspect of kings – the telling you what to do, ignoring your needs, never listening, able to impose random punishment kings. The inheritors and perpetuators of the white supremist patriarchy, in fact. It’s how some kids see parents or teachers, too.
So what the heck, ending 49 days of self-analysis and hopefully, self improvement with Malkhut? Shouldn’t it be something useful, like Service, or Kindness, or Joy, or whatever? Why majesty? Because that’s not what is meant by majesty. Here, the ruler in question is God. God has no need to yell, God always pays attention, God isn’t white or male. So, what kind of majesty is this? This is the parent or teacher or leader of any kind that we aspire to. This is the one who inspires rather than bosses, who people follow because that person does things so well that following them makes sense. This is the ruler about whom people would say “I would follow them anywhere.” This is a true leader.
When we listen to a teacher who inspires us to learn more of a subject by his sheer love of it, when we finish a project just so as not to disappoint the manager who has herself put endless hours into it, when we ride into battle following a leader who has always fought on the side of goodness and peace – we are looking at the divinity within a person. When we ourselves are that manager, leader, parent or teacher, we are emulating God. We are practicing Malkhut.
True majesty must, by its very nature, be founded in grace and kindness. Without a deep inner understanding of the other and love of our fellows, we have no chance of leading the way we want to. So, today, we take the extra step, we do the work, we lead with kindness and through inspiration, and we embody Malkhut.
Today, may I inspire others by the kind ways in which I lead.