February 10, 2010


Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:45 pm by lindaslongview

I learned a new Hebrew phrase this week, “Shev VeAl Taaseh,” which means “Sit and Do Not Act.”   It is a rabbinic (leadership) tactic that is the moral equivalent of “If I cannot have my way, I’m going to take my basketball and go home.”  Although it doesn’t surprise me that such a tactic exists (or has a name), it does surprise me that anyone would consider it an appropriate leadership tactic in a modern community.

Our world is fluid and complex; full of choices, opportunities, and negotiations.  As individuals, we find and align ourselves with communities that meet our needs recognizing that aggregations large enough to share costs of community transactions (services) may not be perfectly aligned with each of our personal worldviews.  We tolerate and accept those differences for mutual benefit.

Thus, in aggegrated diverse communities leaders must be positive, proactive, and effectively connecting to ALL members by:

  • Being sensitive to the needs/desires of every community member,
  • Striving to create tolerance, coexistence, and compromise for mutual benefit, and
  • Seeking novel solutions for challenges not yet resolved.

“Shev VeAl Tasseh,” a primal command and control tactic that might have been useful in ancient society, has been outgrown by modernity and should be relegated to the dustbin of history along with animal sacrifice.  Channeling the proverb:  If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, leaders must lead in times of difficulty — it is never acceptable for leaders to opt out.

My long view advice to community leaders is to EDGE:

  • Exert effort on OTHERS first,
  • Determine the needs of each constituency beyond your own (What’s in it for them?),
  • Gracefully concede that others have legitimate needs,
  • Engage, participate, and create innovative solutions to enable diversity,

We are fortunate to live in a society that tolerates a richness of many communities, each with different leaders, norms, and conduct.  Yet in order for any specific community to flourish, leaders must participate inclusively and exercise good judgement lest their community pick up and leave due to no confidence.

Are you EDGE-ing?


  1. student said,

    First, let me begin by saying that the entire tenure of your critique is quite cynical. Rather than even make an attempt to understand “shev veal taaseh,” you immediatly presume that it is a “tactic” used to control the masses. You then conclude that it is best applied in an “ancient society” without any relevance to the modern age.
    “Shev Veal Taaseh” means that when there is a doubt we do not act. The theory behind this is a “wait and see” approach.Rather than take foolish action that may have unforseen consequences, we “let the chips fall where they may” and once the facts have unfolded in a more clear manner, then a decision is made.
    The underlying theory behind this is that God controls the world. Ultimately, everything that goes on in this world is controlled soley by Him. If the facts are sufficiently unclear, than God has not yet deemed it the appropriate time to act. When God wants us to take action, he will provide us with the necessary facts essential to making the correct decision.
    Now, since God created the world and controls it to this very day, and always will, this is hardly appropriate only for an “ancient society.”

    • lindaslongview said,

      Thank you for taking time to express your opinion. It is hardly cynical to advocate for generosity and acting for others first. Although I will concede that “wait and see” might be beneficial in some situations, I believe that leadership requires work to gain understanding of others’ needs and to develop a path forward. As leaders, it is not acceptable to “opt out” because it is hard. I stand by my long view position that generosity generates positive outcomes.

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