Special project: The boss who taught me the most
No Drama, Just Work
Name: Shlomo Pollak parliamentary assistant
My Boss: MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni
Duration: 12 years
Working under someone gives you a unique close-up view. As Rabbi Moshe Gafni’s employee, I would say that what defines my boss goes deeper than his political acumen and his astute grasp of the country’s economics as chair of the Knesset Finance Committee. It’s that he sees himself as a representative and a champion of the people. There is a constant stream of individuals beating a path to his door seeking help, and he relates to every petitioner, responding to even the most trivial of requests.
Early on, he taught me that “no” is also an answer. That means that if someone contacts Gafni’s Degel HaTorah office for assistance, and we can’t do anything to help them because the matter is beyond our remit, we don’t just leave them hanging. We still get back to them and explain that unfortunately, we can’t help. That’s something people really appreciate.
One of his mottos in dealing with both the political echelons and the secular public here in Israel has also become one of my own. “Anachnu chareidim aval lo metumtamim —We’re chareidim, but we’re not idiots.” Gafni is down to earth — he’s not easily taken for a ride. Of course, self-control is very important in his position, and I have watched him keep his cool and keep silent when provocative lines of questioning are opened on TV or radio. He knows how to keep his mouth shut and won’t respond to journalists’ efforts to draw comments on certain issues.
Politics here in Israel is a real roller-coaster ride, and we have certainly had major ups and downs during the past decade. Faced with setbacks, like an electoral loss for Degel HaTorah or a political failure, Gafni is very restrained. No great drama, no hysteria. Just keep working hard, and hope for better next time.
As a Degel HaTorah representative, Gafni is closely linked to the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. When the 2018 mayoral elections in Jerusalem went to a second round of voting, progressive secular candidate Ofer Berkovitch looked poised to win. The night ended in a surprise victory for Moshe Leon, and I went along with Gafni to Bnei Brak to tell Rav Chaim Kanievsky the results. It was 2 a.m., Rav Chaim drank l’chayim with Moshe Gafni, and yes, he was emotional.
But like all employees, I’ve made mistakes during my career. Especially early on, I remember that I sometimes mishandled his correspondence, even once sending a letter to the wrong person. He corrected me again and again, and I guess I’ve learned to do things right. But he also let me know something important — “Im lo osim, lo to’im.” That means, the only way to avoid mistakes is to do nothing, or loosely translated, “no pain, no gain.” If you’re making mistakes, it also means you’re getting things done.
Working in politics where major issues are at stake has definitely had an effect on me and enhanced my own sense of proportion. Moshe Gafni’s attitudes have spilled over into my own life — and that means that if something doesn’t go right, I just take a deep breath and try and react as he would.
(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 781)