Yom Kippur, When The Masks Come Off

Mask

This mask does not mean that Jews have horns–that is a crappy and evil stereotype, so cut it out. 


Masks are dress-up and pretend, like the way most people behave day-in and day-out. 


People imagine and feign to be what they would like to be or what they want others to believe they are. 


Like when someone is gearing up for a fight, they extend their arms, raise their voices, bob up and down to make themselves appear bigger and more formidable than they really are. 


It’s a fake out–but perception is (often) reality. 


Similarly, people may wear clothes, drive cars, or live in big fancy homes that make them look well-to-do, but really it’s a great act and all bought on extensive credit (ever hear of 0% down!). 


Others may dream of being seen as smart and the go-to guy for answers, the subject matter expert, or the generally wise person for advice and guidance, but are they really smarter than everyone else or do the degrees plastering the wall like wallpaper or titles like doctor, lawyer, accountant, entrepreneur, professor, and Rabbi simply often invoke credentials and an air rather than the smarts that should accompany them.


Even parents may pose for loving pictures with their children, seem to dote on them, and act the helicopter parents, but still when it comes to their own busy schedules, they have no real time or attention left for the little ones–because the parents put themselves first. 


It happens all the time, every which way, the authority figure who really abuses their authority rather than lives up to it. 


People are human, weak, fallible–and the show is often a lot better than the characters behind it. 


But that doesn’t mean we stop trying to be inside what we know we really should be–more loving, caring, giving, and good people. 


This is the essence of Yom Kippur to me, the Day of Atonement–the day when we shed all our phony masks–and instead we bear out our sins, bend our heads with shame, are sorry for what we have done wrong, and commit to doing better in the future.


Yom Kippur is the day when all the masks are off–we cannot hide from G-d Almighty, the all seeing and all knowing.  


On Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgement we are inscribed, and on Yom Kippur the book is sealed. 


In Judgement, we may enter the court of heaven with heads still held up high, with the same act that we try to show every day, but on Yom Kippur we leave the court with our heads down and our hands humbly clasped, the sentence meted out for who we really are–based not on pretense, but on our underlying behavior.


A mask covers what is, when the mask is off we are left with who we are–naked before our maker, where all is revealed, and we must account for our actions–good, bad, or even just plain indifferent. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Mind Readers and The Psychology of Excess

Animal_house

Seeing a number of senior officials in the last year “ousted,” I find it sort of scary the risks and travails that executive leadership can entail.

There are so many good, hardworking people at GSA making progress for the Government in terms of property management, contract management, fleet management, and more, that it was a huge shock to many today, when GSA leadership including the Administrator, were ousted for what White House Chief of Staff called “excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors, and disregard for taxpayer dollars.”

This at a time when the nation is struggling to reduce the national deficit now at $15.6 trillion and avoid another debt ratings cut from the three credit report agencies that would potentially drive interest up and cause even more damage to the nation’s economy.

Of course, the GSA is not the only example, just last year, we had the unfortunate “muffin mini-scandal” as reported by Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 September 2011), where the Government was alleged to have paid $16.80 apiece for muffins.

What causes this psychology of excess where taxpayers end up footing the bill for extravagant items and events?

1) Hubris–Are there people who feel they are so high and mighty, they just have all the trimmings of office coming to them and theirs?

2) Neglect–Do some executives rise too far and fast, and maybe things get out of control?

3) Misguided–Is it possible that some may actually really think that hiring a mind reader on the taxpayer dime is a good idea?

4) Accident–At times, oversights, mistakes, and accidents happen, and while we may prefer they didn’t, they are a learning opportunities.

5) All of the above–Perhaps it is some combination of all the prior four?

It reminds me of something my father taught me that “G-d does not let any flower grow into the sky.

This means that no matter how good we are or how far we go in our careers and in life, we remain mortal and infirm, and subject to human imperfections.

That’s why it’s never a good idea to tout your own infallibility.  Just Last Thursday, the GSA Administrator, as reported by Government Executive Magazine, told a conference “Why us? Because we’re the expert shoppers. We’re the folks you want on your team when budgets are tight, you’re making purchases, and there’s no room for error…”

Obviously, I assume there was no intent to brag, but we all say things like this at one time or another, and it’s good to reflect and stop ourselves from going too far.

This is not about the GSA or any other agency or organization in particular, but rather a lesson in humility for all of us.

This unfortunate incident should not obscure the good work, done every day, at all levels, by every Federal agency.

(Source Photo: here)