A Bimah of Business

Most people don't have an issue acting with respect and dignity on the bimah. It is understood that this is a holy space and it demands we be on our best behavior. On the bimah, everyone is greeted, acknowledged and honored. Joyous occasions are celebrated, candy is thrown, and handshakes and hugs abound. "Good Shabbos! Yishar Koach! Mazal Tov! I'm so glad to see you. Welcome!"

Despite the occasional angry word or judgemental look, more often than not, we treat one another with respect and honor when we are on the bimah.

Why doesn't that proper behavior always translate to the boardroom?

Far too often, board meetings and board decisions lack the civility and dignity that we bring to religious services and rituals. We show acceptance, understanding, and appreciation when wearing a tallit but struggle to do so when wearing a suit.

While both the bimah and the boardroom are in the same building and presumably, activities in both spaces share the same vision and goals, we have all heard of and seen examples of unfair judgements being passed, lashon hara (evil speech) and downright inappropriate and unethical behavior in the boardroom. How can we call ourselves spiritual communities if our spirituality of compassion ends at the sanctuary doors?

Some would argue that the jobs performed in the boardroom are qualitatively different than those performed on the bimah. In the boardroom we’re dealing with budgets, legalities and administrivia. While on the bimah we’re engaging in prayer, ritual and, you know “Jewish things.”

But isn't the whole point of a synagogue - no, the whole point of Judaism - to make every-thing a “Jewish thing”? Judaism doesn't teach us to act one way when we're making blessings and reading prayers and another when making motions and reading minutes. Judaism challenges us to craft every space into a mikdash me'at (a tiny sanctuary.) We learn, from the sanctuary and it's bimah, what building blocks are essential to creating sacred space and how we should behave in that space. We have a bimah precisely to teach us what we need to transform our boardroom into a "bimah of business".

Our Jewish communities have gotten too good at calling themselves “welcoming,” “family” and “home.” If we want to live up to the the ideals of a Jewish spiritual community then our behavior in the boardroom and in all aspects of administering temple business has to match our behavior on the bimah.

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