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We can do this

There is a saying, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.” It has been attributed to many people; some patriots and real national leaders, others exploiters and usurpers.

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks sees it, the root of the saying is Biblical.

In his commentary on Parsha R’eh, he talks about what leadership really is. It’s when the people in charge serve as navigators; as guides for people to move through their current situtation, and come out whole on the other side.

As my father Leon Kobrin would say, ‘to not only survive, but thrive.”

This is what Moses did for the Jewish people in the desert. It’s what great men and women do for us today, as we deal with the many messes of the modern world.

The true leader helps us understand we can do this.


“One of the gifts of great leaders, and one from which each of us can learn, is that they frame reality for the group. They define its situation. They specify its aims. They articulate its choices. They tell us where we are and where we are going in a way no satellite navigation system could. They show us the map and the destination, and help us see why we should choose this route not that. That is one of their most magisterial roles, and no one did it more powerfully than did Moses in the book of Deuteronomy.”

“Viktor Frankl used to emphasise that our lives are determined not by what happens to us but by how we respond to what happens to us – and how we respond depends on how we interpret events. Is this disaster the end of my world or is it life calling on me to exercise heroic strength so that I can survive and help others to survive? The same circumstances may be interpreted differently by two people, leading one to despair, the other to heroic endurance. The facts may be the same but the meanings are diametrically different. How we interpret the world affects how we respond to the world, and it is our responses that shape our lives, individually and collectively. That is why, in the famous words of Max De Pree, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

“Within every family, every community, and every organization, there are tests, trials and tribulations. Do these lead to arguments, blame and recrimination? Or does the group see them providentially, as a route to some future good (a “descent that leads to an ascent” as the Lubavitcher Rebbe always used to say)? Does it work together to meet the challenge? Much, perhaps all, will depend on how the group defines its reality. This in turn will depend on the leadership or absence of leadership that it has had until now. Strong families and communities have a clear sense of what their ideals are, and they are not blown off-course by the winds of change. https://rabbisacks.org/reeh-5781/

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