Today is National Bosses recognition Day, I happen to be very lucky, I report into truly great people…smart, considerate…special people.

This”Bosses Day” piece once ran in, since then it has been taped to the bulletin board next to my office desk:


I am lucky that I have not turned in to one of those grumpy manager types not because of any formal training, as a manager. Maybe it was the management-training program that my parents had enrolled me. They schlepped me to it each Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday.

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All of my management training was from an unusual source. In fact, all I really needed to know about being a manager (and an employee), I learned in Hebrew School. Management wisdom was not found in some human resources manual or executive self-help book it was all right there in Mr. Gefter’s Torah class. And it’s still there for all the people to look. These are the things I learned from my teachers in Hebrew school:

  • Who you work with is more important that what you are making. Lot traded being close to his uncle Abraham for the fame and fortune of a judgeship in Sodom … eventually that turned out to be a dead end job.
  • Do not tolerate office gossip. Despite all of her good deeds during the exodus from Egypt, Miriam got in trouble for criticizing her boss (brother Moses) behind his back.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate. The section of the Torah with the Ten Commandments is not named after the great revelation at Sinai, where God spoke to the entire Jewish people; it’s named after Moses’ father-in-law, Yitro. Why? Because that is where the Torah tells us: Yitro taught his son-in-law that if he doesn’t delegate, he would burn out.
  • It’s ok for a boss not to know the right answer. When the daughters of Zelophe had asked Moses a real stumper about real estate and inheritance law, he didn’t try to fake his way through it, he just said I don’t know let me check with top management.
  • Stand up for what is right even if it is not popular. After the Golden Calf, Moses said whoever is with God come with me, the Levites answered the call, and for that, they got a big promotion out of it.
  • When a manager loses control of his people, then maybe its time for him to move on. Sure he hit the rock, but by the time God told Moses his mission was done, the Jewish slaves that he started with were dead. Their children had become a new nation, raised in the wilderness not under an Egyptian’s whip. Moses had a hard time relating to this group, calling them rebels. While the people loved their leader God know they needed fresh blood. God’s love was so strong that he told Moses that he was fired for the “sin” of hitting the rock — because he didn’t want to hurt his feelings by saying that had lost touch with the people.
  • Protect your people at all costs. We remember Abraham for trying to protect Sodom and Gomorrah, “even if there are only 10 good people.” He gave birth to nations. The only humans Noah tried to save were his own family and quite possibly, because of that, all nations were destroyed during his watch.
  • Protect yourself also. Jacob though he had an ironclad contract with Laban — he ended up with the wrong wife. David’s success made his boss Saul feel threatened. He ended up out of work (and almost dead). Most bosses are not like that, but you never know which ones are. Make sure to protect yourself and speak up, respectfully, when you feel that a boss is being hurtful.
  • Balance makes for better workers. The Torah tells us that employers and employees alike should take off one day a week, Shabbat. The purpose of this day is to lose touch with the work world, and those work pressures and worries in order to find balance in your life by getting in touch with your kids, family, and friends.
  • Probably the most powerful management lessons I learned in Hebrew School were about decisiveness and teamwork. Three thousand years ago, Moses and twelve tribes of freed slaves stood on the shore of the Red Sea bracing for an attack by the army of their former masters. As they began to pray, God said to Moses, enough praying … do something. Moses took action, leading the twelve tribes across the sea as one nation, proving that a decisive leader and a unified team can work miracles.

It has been more than 30 years since I went to Hebrew school, and even longer since the time of Abraham and Moses, but it still stands that God is one great manager of people and that the Torah would make a heck of an HR manual.

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