An older Rabbi is moving on and giving advice to the newly hired Rabbi who is fresh out of school. The older fellow gives all sorts of pointers from how to manage conflict on the board to which tunes are preferred for Adon Olam. Lastly, before heading to Florida the retiring Rabbi says 'Take these three envelopes, they are the most powerful gift I can give you. If you ever have a problem you aren't sure you can solve, open an envelope. Be judicious in your use of these. They will tell you how to move forward but increase in power. Use other options first.'
Years go by and things go well for the the new rabbi. But over several months tensions reach a fever-pitch in discussing intermarriage. Unsure what to do after having tried most ways of framing the issue the Rabbi opens envelope #1: inside he finds a 3x5 card with the following written neatly on it:Name a Committee.
The Rabbi quickly complies and the committee makes a recommendation several months later. It isn't universally loved but it works.
Another few years go by uneventfully but eventually the issue of whether to hire a gay youth group advisor develops. There are enormously strong feelings and the Rabbi opens envelope #2:
Call for a Community Meeting. Facilitate it Carefully.
By some miracle this works. A conclusion is reached and though it isn't truly a consensus, for the dissenters, feeling heard is enough to help them feel comfortable staying around.
Some years go by and this time the conflict is very bad. There is a near brawl between members of the old and new guards over a wide variety of issues. The Rabbi creates a committee to study the problem, calls a townhall meeting, and pretty much does everything the Rabbi can think of. None of it works. In a moment of anguish and frustration, the Rabbi finally opens envelope #3:
Write Out a New Set of Envelopes.
This comes from the blog of a young friend, himself the son of a prominent rabbi (also a longtime friend). I've been around long enough to know the joke, and the one that follows, but I put them in the category of oldies but goodies and post them here. Some readers may find them of contemporary relevance.