Monday, November 7, 2011

Yes, Sometimes It's the Little Things That Count

We are frequently told by all sorts of people that we need to stop agonizing about the little things and look at the big picture. We won't ever solve our big problems if we continue to nitpick at minutiae. We need to admit that something large is wrong and go after it. Sure, sometimes.

If water is dripping down from your ceiling onto your floor then no, putting a pail to catch the drip won't solve the big picture problem: somewhere up above you have a water leak that needs to be fixed and pronto. Of course, putting a pail to catch the dripping water does have its use: it prevents that dripping water from damaging the floor in addition to the ceiling. You know you need a plumber or a carpenter/roofer or both, but they can't arrive at your home until 8 hours from now, and the water continues to drip. Do you refuse to put the pail under the drip because you know that help is coming in the foreseeable future? The weather is not cooperating and there is heavy rain outside, predicted to last all week. Roofers don't work up on the roof in rainy weather. Yes, he promises he will be there just as soon as it stops raining. So now you know that help is going to be on its way at some point--the big picture will improve--but you're going to have to deal with the issue of that dripping water now.

In many areas the members of Klal are like those homeowners who won't put a bucket under a leak because they just know for "sure" that the cause of the leak is going to be fixed--why bother expending energy on small fixes when it's a big fix that is needed? Unfortunately for us, our big picture fixes are not as obvious as the cause of that leak in the ceiling. Not only that, but even where we are fairly sure we know what is causing a problem, there is no specialist dealing with that problem available to us, or the specialists available have limited skills/knowledge to fix our unique problem. And then there is where we effect a repair and discover that what we thought was causing our leak was not the cause, because water is still dripping down from the ceiling.

Yes, we need to view the big picture and try to get to the root cause of any problems that are affecting us. However, in the meantime, we would benefit from taking some small actions that can help us to keep the problem from spreading, that can alleviate some of the difficulties that the big problem is causing us.

One example: yeshiva tuition cost is a major problem. What to do about the high cost of tuition is one of those big picture discussions. But there is a small fix that is available--it won't solve the problem but it could keep it from growing larger. The fix? All parents in a school, whether able to pay full tuition or not, all members of a community, all community leaders, letting the schools know in clear, concrete language that no school will be allowed to raise tuition for the next X number of years, whether 1,2 or 3. The "bucket" would be there for the parents, giving everyone a chance to fix the leak. Or maybe you could plug a smaller leak that is affecting only some parents, and push the schools to make the mandatory lunch program an optional one. Or maybe you could push that no school will be allowed to do any "cosmetic surgery" on or in their buildings for the next X number of years--things like fancy floors in the entry halls, or remodeling auditoriums, or redecorating anything in the school. Unless it falls in the actual "leak" category, the schools should not expect that parents will be paying for decor.

So no, we still need to look at the big picture as regards our problems in Klal, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that unless we also take some of the small steps, unless we put a bucket under those leaks, the problem is going to spread.


JS said...

Agree with what you're saying.

The problem is two-fold:
1) The parents (or any constituency in klal) think they have no power and even if they would like to gather together like-minded individuals, people are afraid to speak up or speak out and be known as "trouble makers". They think it will affect shidduchim or people won't eat in their house or God knows what.

2) Everyone looks to the rabbis to fix everything. Some people do this because they genuinely think the rabbis can fix anything and everything. Some people do this out of cynicism basically saying their hands are tied to fix anything until the rabbis act. Either way, you call a roofer when your roof needs to be fixed, not a rabbi. But, people think rabbis can do anything regardless of what skills or knowledge are needed that they may not possess.

So, while the parents certainly have the leverage and power to talk to the schools, they'll never do it. They don't want to be trouble makers and the schools claim it's impossible to do. Both sides say they need rabbis and gedolim to step in and fix the problem. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Or, we allow our community to send our kids to the free public schools and establish real after-school Hebrew \ religious education.