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ב"ה

Absent?

Friday, 8 October, 2021 - 10:36 am

Idaho’s number one and number two executives have been in the national headlines again this week. Idaho’s Governor and Lt. Governor have been dueling, with the Lt. Governor issuing Executive Orders while the Governor is traveling out of state. This time, before the Governor even returned to Idaho, he issued an Executive Order reversing the Lt. Governor’s Executive Order.

All of this leads to a debate about the authority of the Lt. Governor to assume the role of Acting Governor and issue Executive Orders when the Governor is absent from the state. And, that is exactly the issue that the Attorney General’s office was asked to weigh in on.

What does it mean to be absent?

The Lt. Governor claims that when the Governor is physically absent from the state, she is in charge and fully authorized to act as Governor. The Governor claims that his authority isn’t transferred if he is not effectively absent, meaning unable to perform his duties.

As is well known, I do not engage in partisan politics.

I do wonder, however, what this debate means to us:

If we are physically absent, but fully engaged – are we absent? And, if we are physically present, but emotionally detached – are we present?

*

In this week’s parsha we read about the famous flood. Only one family survived the flood, remaining in quarantine in the ark for an entire year. Before the flood, however, Noach and his family had a social life of some sort. Well, at least they had other humans to engage with.

We discover in Parshat Noach that Noach’s contemporaries weren’t of the most noble character. In fact, all of them perished in the flood. This, despite the fact that Noach had warned them – at G-d’s behest – for 120 years that they better shape up or G-d would not provide them a ship out from the raging floodwaters.

Why couldn’t Noach impress upon them – at least a few of them – to improve their ways?

*

Noach’s problem wasn’t that he didn’t try. His problem was that, in trying, he was essentially heeding G-d’s Will.

‘What’s wrong with heeding G-d’s Will?!’ you may ask.

Heeding G-d’s Will is great. The problem is that this is all he was doing. When he spoke with people, he wasn’t necessarily interested in them; in their lives; in the challenges and traumas that they faced. He was only interested in checking the holy checkboxes of G-d’s instruction.

And, that’s not really holy.

In order to affect and help others we need to be fully engaged. We need to be fully present. We need to put ourselves in their shoes before we can really offer constructive help.

If we are absent, we cannot influence or help others.

*

The Idaho Constitution was written shortly after the invention of the telephone, but well over a century before officials could tweet Executive Orders out to the public. The authors insisted that an absentee Governor was no Governor. Today, we are still – or finally – debating what that means.

One thing, however, is certain. Then, like now, to be effective you need to be present.

They just had less distractions.

It’s high time to get rid of some distractions, so we can be focused and present on the things that matter most to us.

Thank G-d it’s almost Shabbat! Time for some weekly super-focused presence.

Shabbat Shalom!

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