What business “mentors” can learn from the (biblical) origins of the word

It is generally accepted that the word mentor comes from a story in Greek mythology. The character Mentor was foremost a teacher, who was entrusted by King Odysseus to bring up his son, Telemachus. The professional relationship with the student developed. As in the story, today a mentor is seen as someone who imparts wisdom and shares knowledge with a less experienced person in order for that person to become independent.

Great reading, but I suggest that Mentor was not the first of his kind. There is a biblical story, which in many way is more enlightening.

The episode was brought to my attention, when I was reading an article by Zvi Weinreb, ordained rabbi and qualified psychotherapist. He referred to a discussion initiated by a student by the name of Carol during a course that he was presenting on leadership in the book of Genesis.

Carol spoke about Deborah, not the famous judge but the handmaid of Rebecca (who in turn was the wife of Issac). Weinreb described what provoked Carol’s detailed research in to this seemingly very minor character. The Bible recalls that when Deborah died, Rebecca and Jacob and his sons all wept. Carol wanted to know what provoked this specified outpouring of grief.

It turns out that when Rebecca had wanted to summon her son Jacob back from exile  – Genesis, chapters 27ff – she had a dilemma. Jacob had been living amongst the family of Laban. Although he was Rebecca’s father, Laban was simply dishonest, corrupt. The prime reason that Rebecca had survived her childhood, physically and morally, was due to the efforts of her maid……….Deborah.

As Weinreb relates Carol’s description: “Rebecca had to send someone who could pay a role in Jacob’s life and in the lives of his children, her grandchildren, akin to the role played by Deborah in her own early childhood. Hence she beseeched the frail, old lady to courageously undertake the mission“.

What Carol was arguing is that here we have a different kind of leadership than what we are used to seeing. We are not looking at a person who succeeds through charisma or authority. This is a tender soul, nurturing the good in people.

(As a historical sidebar, Deborah was buried under a tree near Beth-El, located just north of Jerusalem. Centuries later, the judge Deborah was considered a compassionate person, who delivered many rulings from under a tree near Beth-El.)

As per the theme of Weinreb’s course, Carol spoke about Deborah in the context of leadership. I suggest that these biblical figures offer much to modern-day business mentors and how they can approach their work with their clients.

Explore posts in the same categories: Business, Jerusalem

Tags: , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: