Between Apathy and Diligence

A number of years ago, a friend attributed the low amount of friction and conflict in our Shul to apathy. If people cared more about Shul going-ons, they would fight more for what they thought was right. Influenced perhaps by my role as an officer at that time, I attributed the low level of conflict to general state of satisfaction with the Shul.

On the other extreme is the trait of diligence, in which you’re constantly concerned with improving the state of affairs. All happy all the time is the lofty goal of this mindset. No problem too small, no problem too tough.

Visiting Israel and davening in many different Shuls gave me a chance to refresh my perspective on this issue. I was very interested in the speed of davening, customs and the running of the service wherever I went, however in minyan factories no input is needed and as a guest, input is usually not appropriate. In fact most minyanim run fine on autopilot: 10 men together – start davening, 10 men finished – start the repetition of the Shomoneh Esrai. My lack of involvement was not due to apathy, rather it was because my input and manpower was not needed.

Sometimes people complain that 20% of the members do 95% of the work. A closer look might reveal that the quiet 80% are not apathetic, they’re just cautious about giving unnecessary input. The diligent one might look for opportunities to get more people involved, while the wiser approach might be to let things run their natural course and most people will find the involvement level that works best for them.