May 7, 2020

Parshat Shavua – Emor

Doctrine, the fundamental values, identity, and culture that define the nature of an organization, is the core topic of this week’s Torah reading. While the Parsha does not address all that Doctrine is, or all the Doctrine does, we do find the reading highlighting several very important aspects of this element of power.

For example, we learn about the nature of mourning for the different members of the People of Israel. And there is a clear delineation between how the Priests, as agents of God, are expected to act in relation to death – specifically the death of a family member – and how the rest of the community acts in this regard.

While they were permitted to go near specific family members who died, the Priests were not allowed to shave their heads or rip their clothes – actions that others would take to mourn their lost kin. This separation goes even further for the High Priest as the agent representing the People to God, and God to the People.

While other Priests were permitted to go near their family who had died, the High Priest was not even permitted near their father or mother. So to act in agency of the People in relation to God meant holding oneself to a particularly strict and high standard and value system.

Furthermore, this reading makes clear those who cannot act in agency, despite their birth into the family of Priests. Those born with a defect, blind, lame, or those with a broken arm or leg, are all denied the opportunity to participate and act in agency for the People. This despite any drive or desire on their part to do so. Which also demands accepting the limitations despite one’s desires.

Additionally, this reading hints to some of the limitations that Doctrine places on the use of Resources, making clear who may eat of sacred donations and, just as importantly, which resources were acceptable as donations. So it was not enough to have something to give, but those acting in agency had to make sure that what they sacrificed was right and proper. Among these requirements was that when an ox or a sheep or a goat was born, it shall stay seven days with its mother, and only from the eighth day on it would it be acceptable as an offering.

Parshat Emor also teaches us about the need for a schedule and set times for work and rest. It explains that some of these times have a specific nature to them – times of joy or introspection or self-denial. Times to teach and connect with our past. Times to recollect what happened and its impact on us today.

This scheduling creates a balance between work and rest that is integral to the cultural and identity aspects of Doctrine. Consider for a minute the nature of a workforce and what the culture of an organization says about “work-life balance.” Are workers expected to be “on-call” 24/7? Are there times specifically delineated as time away from work?

When Doctrine effectively sets clear boundaries and limits on how we use our time, it gives us the freedom to recognize when we are not living the life we want or should be leading. When set times for work and rest are not respected, then the values of Doctrine get muddied and the sense of self can become less distinct. The identity of self that helps build successful teams, as each actor brings their unique perspective to the table, can be lost to the greater Doctrine of the organization.

Lastly, this Parsha teaches us about Doctrine’s role in delineating an acceptable response when we are hurt by, or when we hurt, another person. It is Doctrine that delineates justice for those who are wronged and acceptable punishment for those who have done wrong. These values become ingrained in the culture and identity of an organization and are inherent to Doctrine. This allows us to use Doctrine to bolster our understanding of the world, how we should interpret another’s actions, and ultimately determine the best course of action to take.

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