Raise your hand if you believe in nine year old children working 12 hours a day in backbreaking and dangerous conditions?
Raise it if you think it’s ok for men to be forced to climb barefoot into deep mines with no ventilation, no helmets, no drills, just a shovel, a hammer, and a headlamp, and stay down there often overnight, inhaling methane and other noxious fumes, and at constant threat of losing life or limb?
Raise it if you think it’s ok to pollute rivers used by millions for drinking water, bathing, and cooking, with minerals that can cause birth defects, cancer, and lung disease?
I can’t see you but I imagine very few of you raised your hand.
Now, raise your hand if you have a smartphone.
Raise it if you have a laptop at home.
I assume most of you raised your hand.
Now, I don’t mean to be mean, but you are supporting child labor, the death and dismemberment of thousands of miners every year and the pollution of the drinking water of millions.
Our electronics revolution is powered by Lithium Ion batteries, which are amazing because they can be so small and pack in such a great amount of energy. If not for Lithium ion batteries, our smartphones would be the size of briefcases, and our laptops the size of desktops.
The way they do this is with cobalt, an element that used to be known for making a deep blue dye, but today an enormously valuable mineral in lithium ion battery production.
I just bought a laptop last week for $185. Cell companies offer free smartphones when you sign up for their service. How do we get such amazing things for such low prices?
The only way we have what we have is because men, women, little boys and girls are working all day in dark, noxious, holes deep in the ground, pulling cobalt out by the ton in sacks, and selling them to companies that sell them to companies that sell them to companies that sell them to Apple, Samsung, Sony, Acer, and all the other manufacturers.
What have we done about this? The US has tight regulations about other minerals coming from the Congo, where the money often goes to fund militias that are running around killing each other, as well as cutting off arms and legs or random civilians.
But there are no regulations about cobalt.
Why? Because we need it for our laptops and smartphones, and if we made regulations on the cobalt industry the electronics revolution would slow down; Silicon Valley would stop producing so much electronic gold.
There is a phenomenon where America offshores its ethical problems
We don’t believe in unethical treatment of workers, we don’t believe in slavery, we don’t believe in polluting the environment and the drinking water, so we don’t do it… OVER HERE
We let other countries do it, and then we buy all the ridiculously cheap products from those countries.
Who is making all of those T-shirts that sell for $4.99?
Who is mining the cobalt or the lithium for your electronics?
How much strip mining is being done to produce your $65 microwave?
Once in a while a young scrappy reporter with a hankering for a Pulitzer does some serious investigative journalism and reports about the crazy abuses going on in the global manufacturing machine, and we rise up in feigned outrage,
We find out that conditions are so horrible in the Foxconn plants making our iPhones that 17 workers committed suicide by jumping off the roof, and we can’t believe it, BUT THE IPHONES ARE SO PRETTY, AND STEVE JOBS SAID THEY WERE AMAZING!!!
Then Apple promises to make things better and we go back to normal life, happy that we don’t have to feel guilty anymore…
YAY… We’re all ethical again…
We have been offshoring our unethical practices for decades…
As a matter of fact we have been offshoring our unethical practices for centuries,
Actually, we have been offshoring our unethical practices for thousands of years, ever since the very first sin…
Adam and Eve did the one and only one thing that G-d told them not to do, they ate from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and when G-d asks them why they did it, what do they say?
Let’s look inside:
And the LORD God called out to the man, and said to him: ‘Where are you?’ And he said: ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ And He said: ‘Who told you that you were naked? Had you eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’ And the man said: ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.’ And the LORD God said to the woman: ‘What is this that you have done?’ And the woman said: ‘The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.’
For as long as we have been humans, we have been blaming others for our problems.
“I wish I wasn’t an alcoholic but I grew up with an alcoholic dad who used to beat me all the time”
“I don’t really like talking so much gossip about other people, but that’s all my friends do, so what can I do about it?”
“I would have been here on time, but my kids weren’t dressed on time, so we’re late…”
“Sorry officer, I didn’t mean to speed, I was just following the flow of traffic.”
“I really want to lose weight but I keep going to all these community functions and all they put out is cake, cake, and more cake!”
“Trust me, if it was up to me, I would be more religious, but that is just not the way I was brought up!”
“You think I want to be an angry person? You try living with my kids crawling up you walls and yelling and screaming for two hours and you will be just the same as me!!”
We all outsource our ethical failings, it’s as human as breathing!
Forget about the cobalt in your laptop mined by hand in deadly mines in the congo, forget about the $5 shirt you just bought in Walmart made by children in Vietnam, forget about the milk you just put in your coffee milked by illegal immigrants working 80 hour weeks at below minimum wage, with no overtime and no health protections
Let’s talk about you. Let’s talk about the things you do, the things you say, the things you don’t do, the things you don’t say…
Aren’t we outsourcing the morality of those actions on others as well?
Don’t we blame anyone and everyone but ourselves for our own failings?
It’s our parents fault, it’s the terrible teachers we had fault, it’s our communities fault, it’s our friends fault, it’s our spouses fault, it’s our children’s fault… it’s anyone’s fault but our own…
I want to tell you a story about a man named Commander Jocko Willink, the man who led US Nany SEAL Team Three, in one of the most infamous battles of 21stcentury warfare, the battle to take back the city of Ramadi, Iraq in 2006.
Before the US launched an invasion on Ramadi, there were between 30-50 terror attacks a day! Shias killing Sunnis, and Sunnis killing Shia. Eventually, the US would take the city after months of fighting and the terror attacks slowly dwindled eventually to less than one a month, making Ramadi one of the safest cities in Iraq.
But I want to tell you about what happened on the very first day of the attack on Ramadi. The thrust of the attack was on a market part of the city known as the Ma’laab district. It was co-ordinated with dozens of units moving in, US Navy SEALS, US Marines, US Army infantry, and Iraqi forces led by US advisors.
The attack started in the pre-dawn hours and by 7AM, as the sun rose over Ramadi, it was blanketed in the the fog of war; non-stop gunfire, RPGs flying all around, mortars going off, tanks blasting holes in walls and getting shot at with anti-tank missiles… Smoke, dust, deafening noise, and total chaos was the order of the day.
Then the most horrible thing possible happened. A Navy SEAL sniper team was under fire and fell back to a new building for protective cover, but in the chaos forgot to radio their new coordinates into central command. An Iraqi army detachment that was supposed to wait until they got the “all clear” from the Navy SEALS moved into the area. As one of its members moved in on the building now occupied by the SEALS, the SEALs mistook him for an enemy because he was carrying an AK-47 instead of the US Army M-16, and shot him dead.
When the Iraqi soldiers saw their comrade shot and killed, they began attacking the building with full force thinking that it was filled with insurgents. The SEALs inside the building were putting up a fierce fight, thinking they were fighting an insurgent force, and even had one of their man injured with shrapnel tearing open his face. The US advisors leading the Iraqis were about to call in an airstrike on the building, when Commander Jocko Walling showed up.
Right away, he knew something was not right. He had lost track of the SEAL sniper team when they went off the radar earlier in the attack, but he knew they were in this vicinity. He decided to investigate, and by himself advanced toward the building, eventually ducking his head in the entrance, where he came face to face with the leader of the missing SEALs sniper team. He realized that the two groups fighting each other for an hour, the US led Iraqi soldiers on the outside the building, and the SEALs inside the building were engaged in friendly fire, something called Blue on Blue in the military.
What happened was one of the worst things that can happen in war, something called Blue on Blue, friends shooting at friends, leaving an Iraqi soldier dead, and a Navy SEAL wounded in the face, a disaster of epic proportions
As soon as he got back to base, he got an email from his Commanding Officer:
SHUT EVERYTHING DOWN. CONDUCT NO MORE OPERATIONS. INVESTIGATING OFFICER, COMMANDER MASTER CHIEF AND I ARE EN ROUTE
Commander Jocko Willink prepared an extensive PowerPoint of all that happened and as he is waiting for the investigation to launch he goes through all that went wrong, there were so many people who made mistakes, how did this happen?
The next day, the tent fills with the investigators as well as the many different soldiers involved, including the wounded SEAL with his face all bandaged up. Commader Jocko Willink starts his presentation: “We all know that there was a Blue on Blue that happened yesterday at 0700 hours, who’s fault was it?”
The US advisor to the Iraqi soldiers says “It was my fault for not keeping my Iraqi army group out of the area until the SEALs gave the all clear.” Jocko says “NO! WRONG! Who’s fault was it?”
The SEAL sniper team leader says, “It was my fault for not properly identifying the Iraqi who came into the compound before shooting him.” Jocko says, “NO! WRONG! Who’s fault was it?”
The SEAL sniper team communications guy says, “It was my fault for not radioing in our position sooner.” Jocko says, “NO! WRONG! Who’s fault was it?”
Finally he says, “I am the commander of this unit, and because of that, it was my fault. I failed you. I am sorry to all of you. You were under my command and I failed you, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that it never ever happens again.”
That is what they call in the Navy SEALS taking EXTREME OWNERSHIP, not passing the buck to others, not blaming others who may have made mistakes, but ultimately saying, I’m the commander here, and it is my fault.
Commander Jocko Willink not only ended up leading the Navy SEALS throughout the battle of Ramadi and taking back a city that everyone thought was untakable, but when he was done, he came back to the US and trained all the Navy SEALs Team Leaders so that they too could learn his philosophy of extreme ownership…
He now teaches corporations to work like the Navy SEALS to take Extreme Ownership for everything that they do, and has toured the world trying to teach that philosophy. Here is one quote from his book:
“For leaders, the humility to admit and own our mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success. The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how to best accomplish it.”
Yom Kippur is the day when we as Jews take Extreme Ownership for our actions and our moral failings. It is only when we properly take ownership of our failings that we can overcome them. If our failings are because of someone else, we can’t fix them. If they are our problems we can. Even more importantly, only when we take ownership of our problems can we ask G-d to help remove them. G-d is willing to help us clean up our mess, we simply need to own it, and ask for His help.
Let’s go back to the first Yom Kippur ever. The Jewish people had just committed a sin of unimaginable proportions, the Sin of the Golden Calf. Just 3 months after G-d miraculously took them out of Egypt, and forty days after He appeared to them on Mt. Sinai and said, “Don’t have any other G-ds before me,” they were dancing around a golden calf, saying “these are your gods o’ Israel, who took you out of the Land of Egypt.”
G-d is ready to wipe the Jewish people out and start all over again, and Moshe goes to advocate on behalf of the people, and this is what he says (Exodus 32:31):
And Moses returned to the Lord and said: “Please! This people has committed a grave sin. They have made themselves a god of gold.”
What is Moshe doing? Is that how the defense lawyer opens up the trial for his client who’s accused of terrible tyranny? That seems like worst thing to say! And there were so many people to blame; the Mixed Multitude of Non-Jews who came up with the Jews from Egypt and who pushed the Jews to do it, the Satan who showed the Jews an image of Moses’ coffin in heaven leading them to think their leader was dead, and many others…
Why is Moshe starting his defense with “We did a terrible sin?!” The answer is that Moshe is taking extreme ownership of the sin, because that is the only way you can ask Ha-shem to help you with the cleanup job. Because of Moses owning the problem, eventually G-d told him, “Salachti kidvarecha, I will forgive according to your words,” and that was how Yom Kippur was born.
Yom Kippur is an amazing day! It is the day that G-d says, “Come! Let me help you clean up the oil spill of your life! You let your black junk spill all over your life, your anger, your jealousy, your lust, your laziness, your gluttony, it’s affecting everything and I’m ready to help you get rid of it! But you need to own it first if you want to give it over to me! Extreme ownership.
I am the commander of my life, and I’ll take ownership for it. I won’t offload my ethical failings onto my parents, my teachers, my community, my spouse, my kids, or my friends. I’ll be big enough to admit the problem is with me. That is what the Viduy confession of Yom Kippur is all about, and that is when Ha-shem says, “Salachti kidvarecha, I will forgive according to your words.”
Some people dread Yom Kippur, it’s long, we’re uncomfortable, and the services seem to go on forever. We need to learn to love Yom Kippur because when I can take responsibility for my actions, I’m saying that I’m the commander of my life, I’m leading my life, not simply following all the things that happen to me. I’m taking responsibility and because of that, I’m going to go places, I’m going to resolve to become bigger and better, and G-d will help me with infinite mercy and love.
Yom Kippur, the day we stop outsourcing our lives, the day we take Extreme Ownership, and the day G-d helps us start that Ownership with a clean title!
Parsha Dvar Torah
The Dvar Torah this week comes from Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky’s wonderful piece on Torah.org
Parshas Vayelech has Moshe handing the reign of power to his beloved disciple Yehoshua, who now will grasp hold of the destiny of the Children of Israel. Moshe does not leave him without first guiding him through the difficult mission of leadership. At the end of Parshas Vayelech, (Deuteronomy 31:7), “Moshe summoned Yehoshua and said to him before the eyes of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous and do not be broken before them, for Hashem your G-d — it is he who goes before you.'”
The Torah does not specify what “strong and courageous” actually means. I conjured my own visions of how to be strong and courageous when dealing with a “stiff-necked” nation. It entailed exacting demands and rigid regulations. The Medrash, however, offers a totally diametric explanation.
The Yalkut Shimoni, a compendium of Midrashim compiled in the Middle Ages, discusses a verse in Hoshea. “Israel is but a beloved lad and in Egypt I had called them my child.” It quotes the verse in Deuteronomy 31:7, and explains the words “strong and courageous.” Moshe explained to Joshua, “this nation that I am giving you is still young kids. They are still young lads. Do not be harsh with them. Even their Creator has called them children, as it is written, (Hoshea 11:1) “Israel is but a beloved lad.”
Can the Midrash find no better words to translate the phrase telling Joshua to “be strong and courageous” other than be patience and understanding? In which way does forbearance show strength? How does courage translate as tolerance?
In the years of World War I, a young student who was fleeing the war-ravaged city of Slabodka sought refuge in Tiktin, a village near Lomza, Poland. A prodigious Torah scholar, he compensated for room and board by becoming a simple cheder teacher. He gave his lecture in a small schoolhouse, but the townsfolk were quite suspicious. There were no shouts from inside the one-room schoolhouse as it was with other teachers; the boys seemed to be listening. Rumor had it that the young man even let the children play outside for ten minutes each day in the middle of the learning session.
They decided to investigate. They interrupted his class one morning and were shocked. The kanchik (whip) used by every cheder-Rebbe was lying on the floor near the trash bin. Upon interrogating the children the parents learned that this radical educator never used it.
Outraged, the townsfolk decided to call a meeting with their Rabbi to discuss the gravity of the situation. Who knows what ideas a teacher who would not use the kanchik was imbuing in our children? They worried.
The local Rabbi pointed to a picture of Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Spector, the leader of Lithuanian Jewry. “Do you see that picture of the Kovno Tzadik?” He asked the townsfolk. “One day thousands of homes across the world will have this young man’s picture hanging on their walls.”
The elderly Rabbi was right. The young man became the leader of a generation, teacher of thousands and dean of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. It was the beginning of, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky’s career in education.
Moshe, the guide and architect of Jewish leadership, was empowering his disciple with a message of guidance. The words “be strong and courageous” embodied leadership of love and understanding. One can not talk of forbearance and patience without talking of strength and courage. But more important: one can not show true strength and courage if he is not patient and understanding.
The Parsha Summary this week was taken from Chabad.org
General Overview: This week’s reading, Vayelech, recounts the events of the final day of Moses’ terrestrial life. Moses transferred leadership to Joshua and wrote a Torah scroll which he handed over to the Levites. Moses commanded the Israelites to gather following every Sabbatical year, and informed them of the suffering which will be their lot when they will abandon the laws of the Torah.
Moses addressed the people, saying that he is 120 years of age on that day, and he is not permitted to cross the Jordan River together with them. Instead, Joshua will lead them, and G‑d will go before them and destroy their enemies.
Moses continued his talk: G‑d will vanquish the inhabitants of Canaan as He did the Emorites and Bashanites. Moses enjoined the Israelites to be strong and not fear their enemies.
Moses summoned Joshua and told him to be strong and courageous, for G‑d will be going before him and will not forsake him. Moses then wrote the entire Torah and gave it to the Kohnaim (priests) and the Israelite elders.
Moses gives the commandment of Hakhel (assembly), whereby every seven years, during the holiday of Sukkot which follows the Sabbatical year, all men, women, and children assemble and the king publicly reads sections of the Torah.
G‑d commanded Moses to enter the Tabernacle together with Joshua. G‑d appeared to them both and informed them that a time will come when the Israelites will abandon G‑d and stray after alien gods. At that time, G‑d will hide His countenance from the nation, and they will be subjected to much evils and troubles. Therefore, G‑d says, “Write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it into their mouths, in order that this song will be for Me as a witness…” This ‘song’ is narrated in next week’s Torah reading.
When G‑d’s wrath will find the Israelites as a consequence of their evil actions, they will claim that the misfortunes are befalling them because G‑d has abandoned them. At that time, the song which Moses and Joshua wrote will bear testimony that these events are in fact punishment for their sinful behavior.
Moses took the freshly concluded Torah scroll and gave it to the Levites. He instructed them to place it beside the Ark which contained the Tablets. Moses then gathered the entire nation to hear the song, wherein he would call upon the heavens and earth to be witnesses that the Israelites were forewarned regarding their fate.
Quote of the week: I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today. ~ William Allen White
Random Fact of the Week: There are 293 different ways to make change for a dollar.
Funny Line of the Week: I imagine if you knew Morse Code, tap dancing would drive you crazy!
Have an Introspective Shabbos,
R’ Leiby Burnham