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The Essential Mystery – Price or Value

According to the American investment guru, Warren Buffett:

“Price is what you pay, value is what you get”

I think he makes a valid differentiation between the two terms.  As an illustration of the difference consider the price and value of being a member of WLS.  The price is easy to know – it has a monetary worth measured in pounds and pence.  Measuring the value is more difficult; it varies from person to person and will often vary according to time or circumstance.

For many value comes from belonging to a communal organisation, for others it is belonging to a religious organisation – WLS provides both.  Others see value in their membership of the Burial Scheme, or derive value by sending their children to Cheder (for which there is an additional price to pay).  For a few (sometimes it appears to be a small minority) there is value in attending the weekly services.

When I speak to members of WLS about their likes, dislikes, and hopes for the future – the importance of having a rabbi is usually at or near the top of their value list.  Long standing members remember when WLS had long-term associations with its rabbi.  Others, me included, have seen rabbis come and go.  Our neighbouring Liberal Jewish communities hold on to their rabbis – both Bet Tikvah and Southgate Progressive have rabbis who have served their communities for over twenty years.

Experience, of course, costs more.  Choosing to be a rabbi may be a vocation but (like everyone else) they are entitled to make a living and they should also have the opportunity (according to their talents) to make progress in their chosen career.

Liberal Judaism is trying to strike the right balance between the vocational aspects and the career aspirations of the movements’ rabbis.  A recent article in the Jewish Chronicle  on the Defries report focused on the top end salaries that a rabbi with many years of experience could command.  LJ has asked constituent communities for their comments on the Defries report and Council is considering our response.  We know that we cannot afford to pay the top-end salaries quoted in the JC, but we have to balance this against getting full value from employing a rabbi.

In recent times, WLS has become a ‘nursery’ for newly qualified rabbis who tend to leave after about three years.  As a nursery congregation – WLS offers the newly qualified rabbi somewhere to put theory into practice, develop their rabbinic skills, and gain valuable experience.  By helping to nurture and develop the trainee, we keep our costs down but the real value of doing so is gained by others – in particular the new community that the rabbi moves too!

Lao-Tzu – the Chinese and Taoist philosopher who lived between 604 & 531 BCE – wrote:

The good man is the teacher off the bad,
And the bad is the material from which the good may learn.
He who does not value the teacher,
Or greatly care for the material,
Is greatly deluded although may be learned.
Such is the essential mystery.

I wonder if we are in danger of being greatly deluded by sacrificing value to keep the price down.  We have at times (at least in the short-term) survived without a spiritual leader.  We have (perhaps for too long now) managed to make do with successive temporary spiritual leaders.  As a faith-based community, we need a rabbi who wishes to care for the material but this does require all of us to demonstrate that we value the teacher.  If WLS is to develop and thrive, we need to better understand the essential mystery – the real price and value of having a rabbi.

I think the value of belonging to WLS is derived from the complex interaction between the communal & personal and the religious & secular.  Much of this comes from having a rabbi but while we know the price – I am not sure that we know or appreciate the value of having rabbi.

It would be interesting to hear from the wider community, your views on the value offered by being a member of WLS and whether you agree or disagree with anything I have said – you can add your comments in the box below.

Regards

Bob

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