Friday, October 24, 2008

Keeping the Boss Updated - Table Talk for Bereishit 5769

In the rabbinate, I always had the blessing of a great deal of self-motivation. It's a requirement for the job. Sure, there's a board and president and officers, but they really have neither the time, desire or inclination to oversee the rabbis daily activities. As long as the complains remain at a manageable level, they're busy enough with the business ends of the shul. Usually, boards have to reign in the rabbi, because every good idea, program and initiative costs money.
At the same time, the position also gave me a great deal of autonomy. No one really asked how I spent my time, and no one checked to make sure that I was doing programs or classes.
So, with that it mind, my new job has been a real learning experience. My new boss emailed me this week asking about my progress. It wasn't that he thought that I wasn't working or was unhappy with my progress. I just hadn't updated him at all about what I'm doing. Truth be told, it never occurred to me to do so. I figured that as long as I was doing my job (which I think I am), all was well. He - rather reasonably, I think - expects regular updates. So, we've decided to meet regularly to keep communication open, so that he has an idea of what I'm doing.
All of this got me thinking about another kind of updating as well. We think of God as a boss We call God an אדון - a Master. But אדון can also mean "Boss." In fact, my son is now reading a very popular Jewish book called "All For the Boss" about Rabbi Ya'akov Yosef Herman, who lived in New York during the early to mid-twentieth century. (The book is so named due to the fact that its protagonist constantly referred to God as "the Boss.")
In light of my recent experience, I started to wonder: Am I supposed to keep the Boss updated as well? After all, I had always assumed that He knows what I'm doing. After all, He is God. Of course he knows. But then, in the parshah, we see two examples where God clearly knows what people have done, but He wants them to give Him an update.
First, following the Original Sin - when Adam eats the forbidden fruit, instead of immediately confronting Adam and Eve with their sin, He asks them, "Where are you?" Only when Adam explains his desire to hide because of his nakedness, God asks him, "Who told you that you are naked? Did you eat from the tree?" (3:12)
Later, when Cain kills his brother Abel, again God does not immediately confront Cain with his crimes. He first asks Cain, איה הבל אחיך - "where is your brother Abel?" Only when Cain denies any knowledge and culpability does God throw the book at him.
In each case, God looks first for an update: What have you been doing? Is everything OK? Of course He knows the answer. But he wants us to come to Him. He needs us to approach.
And, if we must approach God and admit our mistakes when things go wrong, should we not also approach God with an update when things are well?
He is, after all, the Boss.