Preparing for the Unexpected

Posted on: January 5th, 2009 by Hayim Herring

I’m writing from Israel, where I’ve been with my family since before the start of the war in Gaza. If I was in Minneapolis now, the media would be showing a graph with a list of school closings and the number of inches of snow that fell in each school district. Snow falling from the sky is a natural event, causing children to miss school and families to rearrange their schedules.

Instead of watching graphs with school closings because of falling snow, we’re watching graphs of school closings in southern Israel’s towns and cities with the number of falling rockets. Rocket fall, unlike snow fall, is not a natural event. Causing it is a humanly-calculated malicious act.

In Minneapolis now, the major safety concern is with the snow falling from the sky. In Israel, schoolchildren and residents of the south now have to worry about the number of rockets raining from the sky.  In fact, over 6,300 rockets have struck Southern Israel since August 2005 when Israel unilaterally evacuated Gaza, with over 3000 rockets alone landing since 2008 (Jewish Virtual Library).

Issues in the Middle East are always complex and my purpose is not to treat this war simplistically, nor do I want to minimize the sheer suffering of those innocent Gazan residents. But I can’t believe that if St. Paul started lobbing 50 rockets per day at Minneapolis that anyone would accept this reality.

The subject of Tools for Shuls for the last few weeks has been strategic change. In a related vein, the events of the past 10 days have reminded me of the importance of taking unforeseen events into account and having the flexibility to modify plans based on these contingencies. For the family part of my visit, we’ve had to skip some sites we hoped to see and substitute them with others. For the remaining week that I’m here on a leadership retreat with rabbinical students, we’ve also had to modify our agenda. My guess is that it may change during the retreat as well, based on events. Even when plans are carefully developed months in advance it’s good to remember the expression: “change happens,” and to be prepared for it on all levels of planning.

A version of this blog post appears at

Rabbi Hayim Herring


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