15 October 2011

Time & space

In re: a new paradigm for philanthropy and creativity, do we need to build some sort of think tank-like institutions to help people get a firmer grip on the novel strategic principles they would likely not be able to comprehend on their own without some explicit instruction in the details of the new paradigm. How do we not end up building academic institutions where people who don't know what they're talking about find themselves teaching practical skills to people who don't know how to use them?
 The scriptural injunction of 've-et shabbtotei tishmoru', 'and you shall guard my Sabbaths', was probably directed at precisely this concern. The Torah says, for starters, you don't build a parallel institution to teach the lessons of creativity, you build the teaching function into the very way you manage the institutions of creative enterprise in the first place. How? Through the sabbaticals, the 'shabbtotei'.
 One day every seven days, and one year every seven years, and then one more year every 50 years, creative workers pause in their work to re-calibrate and to reflect on what is merit and what is grace, on where the covenantal line is drawn that defines justice as deservedness, on how to be clear and humble about one's own place in one's work. When one understands one's relationship to one's work, the work becomes 'melakha', the expression of one's own identity rather than mere labor or toil.
 You begin by building the institutions of instruction and evaluation into the dimension of institutional time rather than the dimension of institutional space. Then, when the 've-et shabbtotei tishmoru' has been accomplished, you can move on to 've-et miqdashei tira-u', 'and my sactuaries you shall recognize/fear'. Then you can also build (in institutional space) a temple of the teachings of creativity. This think tank/temple would be administered by 'priests' who service the members of the creative sector but remind them of the source of Man's creativity, priests who in their very lives embody and defend the covenantal line between merit and grace. Such a think tank/temple, however, needs to supplement the basic, temporal institutions of instruction and evaluation that ought to be built into the very way in which we organize creative work in the real world, in the first place; and that has to happen seriatim in the temporal domain.
 ChZL, very possibly, had it backward. We do not learn the meaning of melakha on shabbos from the example of the melakha of the building of the miqdash. Rather, it's the other way around. We learn the meaning of melakha in the miqdash from the lessons we learn from the self-reflection that happens on shabbos and sheviit and yovel regarding our work experiences in the real world. That way the miqdash can remain fresh and relevant to the experiences of the people.

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