The Big Bang, Torah, and Leadership

These days, the consensus in the scientific community is that our Universe began with the Big Bang. From an initial energy, the Universe exploded into all kind of particles, which eventually coalesced into atoms, and the atoms into molecules, and the molecules into compounds, and from there stars, planetary systems and Life. The case for this theory is strong, including astronomical observations of what scientists believe is residual energy from that initial explosion. As scientific explanations of the how things happened it is a very good one, even if it does not address the origin of that "initial energy" or the reasons for why it exploded. It does explain how the original particles (mostly subatomic) gradually became matter and how that matter was processed in the nuclear forge of the stars.

But how about the why? Years ago, I read a book called "God and the Big Bang" by Daniel Matt. The author notices, in the book, what he sees as parallels between current cosmological scientific theories and the Kabbalah. He notices that one of the big questions in Religious thought is "if God is everywhere and out of time, how did Time and History began?". The Kabbalah asks that question and Kabbalists believe that God withdrew from itself to make room for the world to be born. While God is trascendent, God withdrew from itself to make room for the immanence of our world, while still remains present in it. This approach allows to establish a space for Science and Religion to be not only compatible but even complementary. And it all begins with an act (or moment) of Creation in which what it was, makes room for what it can be. The withdrawal of God made room for Time and Space, and it was in that Time and Space that the Big Bang happened. In this, Scientists agree - before the Big Bang there was neither Time nor Space; it was the initial explosion of pure energy which allowed both to develop and make the Universe - and life - possible.

It is interesting how the Kabbalistic approach opens a way to look at Leadership. There are many forms and styles of leadership. Even Hitler and Stalin (misguided and evil as they were) cannot be denied leadership qualities. Leadership in and by itself is neither good nor bad, neither positive nor negative - Leadership simply is. In his book "Sapiens", Yuval Harari makes the case that Leadership is a biological imperative present in all animal species on our planet, from the lowest single-cell animal to Human Beings; and he also makes the point of how Leadership plays a role in the long term evolution of species. But I wish to focus on a particular kind of Leadership; "Creative Leadership"; the kind of leadership which allows for the development of new ideas, new approaches, new concepts to develop. I will assume, until somebody can prove to me otherwise, that this kind of leadership is the exclusive province of Humankind.

So what does Creative Leadership have to do with the Big Bang and with Religion? The three of them require the same fundamental condition: a whitdrawal to allow new things to happen. A Creative leader does not develop all the ideas him/herself. The leadership quality is what distinguishes the leader - the ability to bring together the efforts of a group in pursue of common goals and objectives. What allows creativity in the mix is the possibility to incorporate all the disparate ideas of the members of the group, and this is somehow along the lines of Harari's contention that the combination of DNA from different groups promotes evolution because of its diversity.

So how does a leader ensure that the different ideas are brough up and combined (and recombined) in the group? By withdrawing itself to some extent. The leader needs to make room for others to speak up and to think on solutions to common problems and approaches to how to achieve the goals. It is the leader who can bring all these ideas together to create a path, but it is the participants who walk that path with the leader. The path requires both, the leader and the followers.

One could go a step further and claim that all forms of creativity imply making room for others, capitalizing the different perspectives to develop a common approach. I don't know if this applies to every field of Human activity, but I definitely believe it applies to Jewish communal organizations... Just my two cents.



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