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Joshua Cypess
+ Your AuthorsArchive @JoshuaCypess PhD social scientist & Orthodox Rabbi. We're all in this together. He/him. #BlackLivesMatter #Steelers #Mets #Resist Aug. 11, 2021 6 min read

1/ I try to teach my kids leadership lessons from my observed, taught, & lived experience. E.g. (1) 90% of leadership praxis is communication (yet too often unpracticed, with disastrous results) (2) vision is as necessary as operations but without one you're either blind or lame.

2/ (3) Vision is strategy, operations are tactics, but both are neutralized without logistics, (4) ultimately, a leader needs to put the welfare of the group above themselves; it should be the reason they consent to the imagine oneself capable of making decisions for others.

3/ #4 is about self-sacrifice and without that, leadership becomes exploitative. (5) In order to determine all elements - strategy, tactics, vision, and consent of the governed - you need a system of error checking.

4/ This thread is about some tactics: (6) making & enforcing rules to guide the group towards the goals inherent in the leadership vision.

Consent of the governed means you can use resources, or force, to benefit the short & long-term welfare of the group, i.e. carrot or stick.

5/ I'm a rabbi and also a sociologist of health, so my lesson comes from merging the methodology of my rabbinic predecessors in their hegemonic heyday (Chazal in the Talmud) with public health policy.

The immediate application is about getting people vaccinated.

6/ Part of "carrot" is appealing to virtue: asking the members to sacrifice a small amount of resources for the group's benefit (e.g. tax). Leaders need to be non-#Literalist, to think of the forest not just trees. The individuals can't be expected to think this way, but you must

7/ Seen with vax, appealing to virtue did move many people. Self-interest as well: it'll protect them, allow society to return to safety. Part of the carrot was making it cost-free and increasing access.

But we also see a lot of resistance by the selfish, small-minded, & cruel.

8/ The cowards require us to pair carrots with the stick. Sanctions, either active (fines, shame) or passive (increased testing, denials of entry to jobs/events). The stick is as necessary as appealing to virtue especially for those who elevate their ego as the highest virtue.

9/ This is where a comparison the #Chazal is helpful. Many enactments in Shas (the Talmud) appeared to me to be farcical because they were punitive and I felt that an appeal to virtue should have been satisfactory. Turns out, Chazal knew self-professed virtue is unreliable.

10/ For example, Chazal decreed the parchment in holy scrolls as ritually impure. It seems counter-intuitive, even anti-theological. How can a holy scroll be impure. Torah is the source of eternal life (as the song goes) and life is by definition Pure. 

11/ The Talmud explains that people would store holy scrolls in special cupboards. So far so good. But they would also store other holy items there, like food rendered holy either as terumah or just intended to be eaten in purity. 

12/ Again, so far so good, except that vermin would intrude and eat the food and then make holes in the holy scrolls. To protect the scrolls, Chazal enacted that the scrolls were ritually impure which in turn would make the food impure. This worked. 

13/ Initially I wondered why Chazal, who had the power to make scrolls impure via legal fiat, didn't just declare it forbidden to store the scrolls with food. Or just appeal to virtue without using a decree. The target population were very religious people, shouldn't they listen?

14/ Not just "religious," they were people who actually followed rabbinic rules! Inherent in the effectiveness of the decree was that these guys accepted it. They were also people who followed laws of terumah (cohens) and/or were super-frum & took on added stringencies (perushim)

15/ If an appeal to virtue should work on anyone wouldn't it be those who heed the rabbis, heed laws of purity, and take on arduous stringencies? Just tell them to stop storing food with scrolls and that should be all.

Evidently not. Carrots didn't work, Chazal needed the stick.

16/ This is why I like this esoteric example, because the recalcitrant population were self-selected as people who aspired to be holy, and who were receptive to rabbinic commandments (a major dividing line back then). Yet Chazal needed the stick. 

17/ Who knows why they didn't listen to advice, even decrees. Possibly they thought the scrolls were holy totems and would emanate force fields of mystical protection. Hashgacha pratit: their self-virtue would protect them. 

18/ I associate this "hashgacha pratit" mentality as a gateway to avodah-zarah - because it assumes the omniscient & omnipotent God operates in the world on a level that an uneducated, simplistic, self-absorbed person can understand.

19/ Trusting God runs the world with benevolent wisdom should be the goal of emunah (faith) - we need to trust because, by definition, God's transcendence means we'll never actually understand.'_13_principles_of_faith 

20/ Logically the complexity of the supernatural world should mirror the complexity of the natural world. Metaphysics should be as complex as physics. It should require the same intensity of study, reliance on a community of allied researchers, and recognition of limits.

21/ The faith needed to perceive God in the human world isn't fully blind, but very close to it. The Torah is our scientific tool (especially without prophecy to give us the answers in the back of the book). Other tools: logic, human behavior, even axioms. 

22/ But people who employ hashgacha-pratit often use it not as a source of emunah but as a simple heuristic that is both predictive & reactive. It will predict future actions as well as have immediate consequences. Virtue protects & rewards, immediately.

23/ Ironically this low-level of emunah is the opposite of how I would interpret it. The world is not comprehensible in that way. That this worldview is functionally equivalent to conspiracy-theories should not surprise us. Same mentality, same desperate need.

24/ The people who should've listened to the rabbis telling them not to store scrolls with food needed to be forced to do so in a manner that had unnecessary, and onerous, impact. [This is a hallmark of Beit Shammai & we're lucky they rarely won]. It's #6: 

25/ In our day, the stiffest resistance to vaccination and concomitant self-sacrifice comes from the same type of religious population who likely see their virtue as protecting them. Spiritual arrogance, hollow egoism, that leads to preventable communal disaster.

26/ It's been a problem in the monotheistic/Biblical community from the beginning of recorded law (the Talmud). The carrot won't work on people who think they own all the real carrots. We need the stick.

I'd just ask that the sanctions aren't so broad as to hurt everyone else.

27/ That's another discussion - my #Polyexclusion Principle - about making rules that reward virtue even as it sanctions malefaction.

Nothing new under the sun: the Talmud knew all too well that religious people can be the most stubborn and selfish.

28/ In sum: leadership is about strategy & tactics - vision and rules - and the rules must employ incentives and sanctions. And the most selfish and recalcitrant can, or will, often be those who proclaim loudest that they are the most pure. They will need the stick.

29/ #ReshetKeshet #Torah #MedicalHalakha #MetaHalakha #BeitShammaiWereSoAnnoying #CarrotAndStick #Leadership


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