- Rabbi Ben Tzion Spitz
What Goes Up Must Not Come Back Down
For one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death. -Bhagavad Gita
In the course of my career, I’ve had occasion to advise CEOs and directors of organizations as to personnel issues. Many of us are familiar with the “Peter Principle” which explains that often people are promoted to their level of incompetence. For example, just because someone is an excellent engineer doesn’t mean they’ll make a good engineering manager. However, a hopeful management will promote the individual, who will not perform, and the hapless engineer will be stuck at that level of the organization. They will not be moved further up the chain because of poor performance at their new level, nor will they be demoted, because, that’s just not done.
However, more enlightened organizations, realizing their mistake, may indeed return the unfortunate engineer to their former position. Rabbeinu Bechaye on Exodus 40:18 (Pekudei) explains why that may also be a mistake.
There is a principle in the Talmud (Tractate Menachot 99a) that states that “we raise things up (in holiness), but we don’t bring them back down.” We learn the “raise” part from the utensils that were used by Korach’s rebellious group when challenging Moses’ leadership. Even though their challenge was ill-considered, it seems there was some desire on their part for greater involvement in divine service. God struck them down, but their utensils survived and were “raised” to serve as the coating for the Tabernacle’s altar.
We learn “don’t bring them back down” from this week’s Torah reading. It states that Moses “raised” the Tabernacle. However, while it is clear that Moses raised and took down the Tabernacle multiple times, it never says that Moses “took down” the Tabernacle.
We learn from this the extreme sensitivity of not bringing down even objects, let alone people, once they’ve been raised to a certain position.
May we always be rising and raising others, and finding creative solutions for those that may be stuck.
To all the Yeshiva guys entering the army this week. May you have a safe and successful service.