Last week I picked up a book at the library called Our Iceberg is Melting by business writers John Kotter and Holger Rathgher. It is a modern parable about a group of penguins facing a dire situation and how they made collective adjustments to find a path forward. An ordinary penguin named Fred, just inspecting his environment, discovers that there are large crevices in the underbelly of their iceberg that could have a devastating effect on the colony’s future.
Winter is approaching and, if Fred is right, the water in those crevices will turn to ice and burst apart the iceberg where they live. Contacting Alice, a trusted member of the colony’s Leadership Council, Fred makes his case about lies ahead. Alice must navigate the politics of the community to find a solution. Over the course of the story, they pull together resources, think outside of the box, and make a bold step forward (*spoiler alert: they move to a new iceberg*).
Reading the book, I was struck by how similar the story was to both that of our Biblical ancestors and to our current global Coronavirus crisis. This week, we conclude Exodus with a double portion, Vayakeil-Pikudei. Exodus, at its core, describes a three month journey where the Israelites must adapt from slavery to freedom. Over that time period, they learn self reliance, define cultural norms, and build the structures that will enable future success.
The book ends with Moses and Aaron putting the final touches on the Tabernacle, the temporary worship space they will utilize in preparation for entering the Promised Land. Appropriately for us today, the very last piece of that grand structure are the washing stations, built both inside and outside of the Tent of Meeting, to ensure cleanliness in entering and exiting their commune with the Almighty.
Both Exodus and the book by Kotter and Rathgher have one thing in common, they describe a completed journey of adaptation. We are currently in the midst of one. Many of us sequestered in our homes, do not know where we are headed or how we will overcome the adversity that we face individually and as a society. I, unfortunately, do not have the answers to the questions that we are all asking.
What I do know is that, unlike penguins, humans are incredibly adaptable to almost any situation we are presented with. I am incredibly proud of the response of our synagogue and larger communal leadership and population in general. You are so much stronger than you know. Rely on one another, tap into resources you didn’t even know you had, and reach out for help when you need support. One day soon, we will hopefully be able to tell our own tale of how we faced adversity and made it to the other side.