Jose Mourinho, Rav Kook & the 3 Weeks By Rabbi Adam Ross

August 8th 2016

The new Manchester United manager looks set to pay out for the most expensive football signing of all time, spending over £100 million on 23 year old Frenchman Paul Pogba.

It’s a lot of money to spend on a new player, so how does Mourinho know he will fit in to his new team? Isn’t it a bit of a risk?

Alistair Campbell, chief political strategist for Tony Blair, wrote a book a few years ago called ‘Winners and How They Succeed,’ interviewing the most successful people he could think of.

One of his main interviewees was Jose Mourinho who had achieved unbelievable success with a string of European teams including at that time the London club, Chelsea.

Mourinho explained the limitations he saw when looking to buy new players. ‘The player needs to be able to fit in well with the club he would be moving to, so if you sense an issue, don’t expect the player to change when you buy him.’ In other words, to guarantee you have an excellent team you only really have one option, you must buy excellent players.

On the face value this may appear like sound knowledge, however it is not how Judaism sees the process through which great teams are built. The Jewish definition of greatness is to be found in overcoming and improving oneself.

This is where our team strategy differs from Mourinho. If you don’t expect much of human nature, then don’t expect individuals to get on and work well together, but if you are dealing with a nation chosen to live to the highest ideals the rules of engagement change.

King Solomon, the wisest of all men, wrote:

“A clever man knows how to conceal the negatives.”

That is to say, by using our skilfulness, intelligence and desire not to see bad in others we can actually conceal bad things. In other words, we can choose what we see in others. 

Rav Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, explained how we can put King Solomon’s words into practise to help us change the part of our character that sees the bad in others.

“Concentrating hard on people's good aspects, which one always encounters, truly conceals all of the bad aspects.  When a person truly looks at the good side of others, he comes to love them deeply- without needing to rely on even a trace of flattery.”

For example, if we look at someone and think they are selfish and greedy, perhaps they are also a very loyal and trusted friend – focussing on this will change our perception of them rather than think badly of them.

Sometimes it is even the negative part of a person that can become the positive thing we see in them. For example, if we dislike a person for being stubborn, maybe if that person was on your team, you would want that stubborn attitude if you had a project to complete.

King Solomon was endowed with the wisdom needed to build a Jewish people who could see and inspire greatness and love in each other and even inspire the whole world.  It was this wisdom and leadership which meant the days of the First Temple were the most harmonious and peaceful the world has ever seen, where the kings and queens of other nations flocked to Jerusalem to feel its majesty for themselves.

Now as we find ourselves in the middle of the three week period that marks the destruction of both the 1st and 2nd Temples and the reason why we have not yet merited to see them rebuilt is because of a lack of love and understanding between us. We are so fast to see negatives – it is such a sad way to live.

Let’s not look at ourselves and say whatever we are we are, and there is no expectation to be any different – but rather as our Jewish tradition invites us, to look at ourselves with the awesomeness, awareness and incredible potential to become greater by the day and to look at others with this same generosity of spirit.

Through truly focussing hard and looking for the good in others, may we blessed to create a society befitting for the rebuilding of the Temple speedily in our days.


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