Building My Cabinet

Posted on by Rabbi Barbara Symons

As President-Elect Biden forms his cabinet, it got me thinking. Who would be in my cabinet? What would their positions be–would I create a new cabinet position?–and who would fill them? Would those people be insiders with experience and already-formed relationships or outsiders who have a certain level of clarity? How much focus would be on how they work together? Should I be concerned about getting Senate approval more than choosing the women and men who I believe in my heart of hearts would do the best work for our remarkable country? Do our personalities have to complement one another in order for us to be effective?

While I’m not sure of the answers, I like the mental challenge especially since we all have “cabinets” as it were. We may not be in elected positions, but we have chosen the people who are “in our corner.” Who is in your corner?

Per Jewish values, I believe that the people in my corner must always be asking “If I am not for myself, what am I? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” (Pirke Avot) For it is keeping in balance of self and others with the ongoing imperative of now that I wish to live and I want others to help me live that way. My cabinet members should answer positively “Who is wise? One who learns from others” (Pirke Avot) For growth and depth comes from bouncing ideas off of others and respecting different perspectives and as they grow so will I. My inner circle must practice toch’cha–loving rebuke–which is exactly as it sounds: being able to offer me critique in a loving way that will help me grow. And my corner must have simcha (joy) because that is both energizing and life-affirming.

I will let you in on a secret. I don’t call it a cabinet but for years, I have had a pie chart and my family knows–and sometimes makes suggestions for new “slices”!–who is on it. It includes people I know personally and some I don’t but who I respect in some way. Some have bigger slices of the pie than others. So far, no one has left my pie and it is never at 100% because there is always room to add.

I invite you to look around even in our socially-distanced way at your “inner circle,” those “in your corner,” “cabinet” or “pie.” And if there is a position in need of filling, look around and bring someone forward so that you are getting the support and loving critique to be the best you. As you change, perhaps your cabinet will change. Simultaneously, give the gift of you and join someone else’s cabinet.

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