Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meirצילום: אייל בן יעיש

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Today, the 24th of Tevet, is an appropriate date to recall two revolutionary ideas. They come from two spiritual giants with a rich and enduring legacy whose passing is commemorated today.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad chassidic movement, passed away 210 years ago. In the book of "Tanya" he writes the following: "The second soul of a Jew is truly ("mamash" in Hebrew) a part of God above." He explains that we have two souls -- an animal soul and a Godly soul. The second soul, actually, is pure Godliness. Many commentators pause over the word "mamash" (truly or actually). Do we understand that this is truly so, that there exists within us something that is supernal and holy? And do we grant it sufficient space in our lives?

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler passed away 69 years ago. His idea is not about what is going on inside us, but about the outside world and our relationships to other people -- to our spouse, our family, and all those around us. "More than love leads to giving, giving leads to love," he wrote. This is a radical idea since we are accustomed to thinking that how much we give depends on how much we love whereas, in truth, how much we love depends on how much we give. The more we care about and devote ourselves to others, the more our relationships with them become deeper and more meaningful.

Rabbi Shimon Baadani -- prominent teacher, educator, and leaderm, was niftar last week. Tens of thousands accompanied him to his final resting place after he passed away at the age of 94. I hard the most moving words regarding his life from a surprising source yesterday evening at an event that I attended. A young waiter by the name of Yosef approached me and began to tell me about his acquaintanceship with Rabbi Baadani.

"I just returned from the funeral. I barely managed to get ready for work and it's a little strange for me now to be serving food. It is important for people to know that the rabbi was modest and humble. At an advanced age, he continued to seek out others' advice, despite having tens of thousands of students in Israel and throughout the world. He still sought out the opinion of those who were wiser than he. That is a truly special quality."

When Yosef came back to the table with the main course, I asked to hear more. "We are living at a time when public relations are sometimes more important than what we do. Rabbi Baadani did not have "spokesmen" or "close associates." He refused to go that route. He had a personal phone which he sometimes kept beside him when he learned Torah since someone who needed him might call. I know for a fact that whoever wanted to talk to him could always reach him directly since he had no secretaries or assistants. He would interrupt his learning in order to comfort a widow who was going through a difficult time, and then immediately return to his books.

"A video from the days of the coronavirus lockdowns was published today.," he continued. "It showed Rabbi Baadani standing at the entrance to his synagogue and crying. We were all saddened that everything was closed, but for him -- who was intimately attached to learning Torah and to praying with the public -- it was especially hard. So he simply stood at the entrance to the synagogue, prayed, and wept.

"And one more thing that was said at his funeral: He always went where he was needed. If there was a large event with lots of people in attendance, he understood that it would probably not be important for him to be there. But if he heard about a sparsely attended simcha (festive occasion) or, heaven forbid, a funeral, he would rush there at once. This is opposite from the inclination of most of us, but he looked for opportunities where he could make a difference, whether in gladdening the hearts of celebrants or in demonstrating respect for mourners and the deceased. He always checked to see where his presence would be most beneficial at any given moment."

May we be privileged to apply their ways of life throughout our lives. In their memory.

We also had an example of it this week as Avi Kochavi bid farewell to the IDF:

Aviv Kochavi, Chief of Staff of the IDF, is retiring after 40 years of military service. This is an appropriate moment to quote an excerpt from his new book, "Achareicha" or "Follow You," a title that evokes "Follow Me," the unofficial motto of the IDF. The book was published yesterday and contains insights into effective leadership from which all of us, not only military commanders, can learn.

"Why did Cain kill Abel?" Kochavi asks. "Because his sacrifice was not accepted by God. In other words, because he did receive recognition. Recognition is the 'mental oxygen' and prime motivator of human beings.

An experiment was once conducted in a factory of the Western Electric Company near Chicago, Illinois. Researchers periodically changed the conditions of the workers -- increasing or decreasing the amount of light and changing the temperature in the factory during certain hours, altering break times and their duration, and providing food during breaks, among other innovations. The productivity of the workers increased with nearly every change in working conditions, which led to a significant and far-reaching conclusion: It was the special attention given to the workers by the experimental team and factory management that led to an increase in productivity.

Every human being has a basic need for recognition. Recognition nourishes self-confidence. People stand tall and shine when they are recognized and those who are not feel small and fade away.

As a battalion commander, I adopted the practice of sending handwritten letters of appreciation. More than once I saw them hanging on the wall of a tank maintenance facility or office. As Chief of Staff, I adopted the additional practice of having a conversation with every fighting force that crossed the border to engage in military action upon their return.

Recognition of others means taking the time to listen, to pay attention, to respond to requests, to encourage feedback, to reassure and show interest. Recognition can be expressed in speech, in writing, or may come down to a single glance."

Thank you Lieutenant General Kochavi for this insight and for the last 40 years.

And as we started Shemot last week, a look at 5 aspects of the book of Exodus:

1. Mazal tov. We completed the book of Genesis (Bereshit) last week and now begin to read the book of Exodus (Shemot), the second of the Five Books of Moses. It is known as *"the book of exile and redemption"* since it describes our enslavement in Egypt followed by our going out from slavery to freedom.

2. This week we meet Moshe Rabbeinu. The greatest leader of the Jewish people ascends the world stage with a *"heavy mouth," heavy tongue," and "sealed lips."* In other words, true leadership is not about having a talent for public speaking, but about character.

3. After all the animosity between brothers in the book of Genesis, the book of Exodus introduces us to three unique figures who will lead the people in the desert for forty years -- the brothers Moshe and Aaron, and their sister Miriam. This is a different model of leadership, based on sibling harmony and cooperation. *It's proof that working together as a family is possible.*

4. The women in this week's Torah portion play leading roles: the Hebrew midwives refuse Pharaoh's order to kill the Hebrew newborns, coddling and nurturing them instead; Yocheved, Moses' mother, hides him after he is born; Moses' sister Miriam watches over him while he floats in his basket on the Nile River. Our sages conclude that *"In the merit of righteous women, Israel was redeemed from Egypt."* It's a testimony to the centrality of women in the life of the nation for all time.

5. The book of Exodus is not a history book. It describes the stages in the process of liberation that all of us must go through, as individuals and as a nation, even today. Each of us is shackled by a particular form of slavery or addiction and must embark on a personal journey to freedom. In the book "Netivot Shalom" (Paths of Peace), it is written: *"All the missions for which a human being descends into this world are meant to take him out of Egypt."* Leaving Egypt is a never-ending challenge, to be confronted anew and overcome each day.