Jacob is an alumnus of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship (Class VII), and  Rabbi of Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  Rabbi Blumenthal can be reached at rabbijacob@shaaretorah.org.

I was at a “call back” interview with a rapidly-growing congregation that was seeking its first assistant rabbi.  After a lovely and warm Shabbat, the search committee organized an “ask the candidate” session on Sunday morning.  It turned out that this involved sitting in a large social hall, with over 100 congregants seated in a large “U,” with myself sitting behind a small table in the middle.  It felt intimidating.

After several of the usual rabbinic search questions, a woman rose to speak.  “As you know,” she began with both earnestness and slight hostility, “we absolutely LOVE our current rabbi.  It is very hard for us to imagine that now we’ll have another rabbi here too.  What will YOU do to make this successful?”

The room went silent, both from a slight sense of embarrassment at the challenging tone of the question, and also from intense curiosity because the question itself spoke so deeply to the change that the congregation was about to experience, hiring its first assistant rabbi.

I personally felt slightly panicked.  After all, this was not one of the “standard interview questions.” But I took a deep breath jumped into the emotion-laden waters.  “There is a funny thing that we should learn about love,” I responded.  “We always think that we have a finite amount to offer, but actually it’s an infinite resource.  Hopefully, in time, not only will you continue to love your current rabbi as passionately as you do now, but through our relationship, you and I will grow to love one another as well.  Love is very much like Torah.  The rabbis speak about Torah being like a candle – it can light infinite numbers of new candles without being diminished itself.”

In organizations, we tend to think of resources as scarce or finite – that we need to conserve them or struggle to gain our necessary share.  But from that interview I learned that one of the most important responsibilities we have as leaders is to cultivate a limitless sense of love and caring for one another in the communities we serve.