Starfleet Protocol and the Limits of Assertiveness
In the new “Star Trek” movie, the brash young Kirk tricks the stoic Spock into ceding authority via a rule of protocol (I don’t want to give away more than that). Though Kirk is regularly at the edge of acceptable military behavior and often tests the limits, he ultimately respects the code of conduct.
In the Starfleet universe, as in most military operations, what leads to a functioning organization is a clear chain of command, governed by written, understood, underlying and agreed upon rules and regulations.
The organization and operation of the Tribes of Israel in their desert wanderings are likewise guided by military protocol and precision. The feature that reaches perhaps the greatest level of detail is that which dictates the Temple/Sanctuary activities.
In Numbers, Chapter 4, there is significant focus on the logistics of transporting the various components of the Sanctuary. It warns that if the Levites responsible are not careful, the infraction would be so severe, that they would be deserving of the death penalty.
Rabbi Ovadia Sforno gives an interesting interpretation on the matter. He advises that the Holy components cannot be left unattended or unassigned, lest it engender a struggle as to who would have the honor of carrying the item. The ensuing fracas to reach the item first could lead to pushing and shoving which would be completely inappropriate and disrespectful, especially in the Holy Sanctuary. Such lack of protocol is liable not merely to a ‘court martial’ but to an actual divine death sentence.
Sforno quotes from the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Yoma 23-24) where such a case occurred in the Temple. The lesson being imparted is that enthusiasm to do good, noble or holy deeds are correct and praiseworthy, but not when it involves running over other people or just basic impropriety. From Sforno it would seem that undue aggressiveness or even rudeness in the pursuit of ‘God’s will’ is not only unacceptable; it is actually considered by God to be a mortal sin.
God seems to be significantly more concerned with how we treat our fellow human (or Vulcan), than how we fulfill the more ritualistic commands.
May we always remember to give precedence to those around us over what may in reality be less important matters, and may we always know when to assert ourselves and when to step back in our life’s pursuits.
To JJ Abrams, Leonard Nimoy and everyone else that made the new “Star Trek” movie amazing. It is a pleasure to watch something that was so exquisitely produced. It even meets a Trekkie’s demanding criteria.