Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Shabbat Pinchas


21 Tammuz / July 2 – 3rd
CHOOSING NEW LEADERSHIP

 Joel Stanely, MH London


“Let the Lord, the God of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go forth before them and come before them, who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Parshat Pinchas, Numbers 27:16-17)

In Parshat Pinchas, Moses faces a situation familiar to many of us Moishe House residents: the problem of succession and transition, of finding suitable future leaders when it’s time to move on ourselves.

Moses has been told that he will not enter the Promised Land, to which he has been leading the Children of Israel for forty years. While traditionally this is seen as punishment for losing his temper in an earlier episode, I think it as just as much to do with the nature of successful leadership: leading and shaping a community means effecting change, and new situations often require different kinds of leadership.

At Moishe House London, as I’m sure is the case at many of the other Houses, we regularly find ourselves looking for new residents, as Moisheniks move onto pastures new. We sometimes wish things could just stay the same. But we naturally outgrow our communities and our communities outgrow us.

So succession is something we must all think about as leaders. There are many ways to do succession. God tells Moses he should choose Joshua “a man of spirit” – someone, in other words, who knows the character of others, a ‘people person.’ And the conferral of responsibility should take place “before the entire congregation,” so everyone will respect Joshua, the new leader.

It may not be as obvious to us who should lead our Moishe House communities or even if individual leadership is appropriate. What is important is that we all give some thought to continuity of leadership. I know that Moishe House Boston has a Transition Team, whose job is to create a fully accountable, democratic leadership structure. At Moishe House London we too are looking into how we can make sure the good things we are building in our community long survive our residency. That way, perhaps, we can let go with a sense of satisfaction and peace.

Shabbat Pinchas
21 Tammuz / July 2 – 3rd
CHOOSING NEW LEADERSHIP

 Joel Stanely, MH London


“Let the Lord, the God of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go forth before them and come before them, who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Parshat Pinchas, Numbers 27:16-17)

In Parshat Pinchas, Moses faces a situation familiar to many of us Moishe House residents: the problem of succession and transition, of finding suitable future leaders when it’s time to move on ourselves.

Moses has been told that he will not enter the Promised Land, to which he has been leading the Children of Israel for forty years. While traditionally this is seen as punishment for losing his temper in an earlier episode, I think it as just as much to do with the nature of successful leadership: leading and shaping a community means effecting change, and new situations often require different kinds of leadership.

At Moishe House London, as I’m sure is the case at many of the other Houses, we regularly find ourselves looking for new residents, as Moisheniks move onto pastures new. We sometimes wish things could just stay the same. But we naturally outgrow our communities and our communities outgrow us.

So succession is something we must all think about as leaders. There are many ways to do succession. God tells Moses he should choose Joshua “a man of spirit” – someone, in other words, who knows the character of others, a ‘people person.’ And the conferral of responsibility should take place “before the entire congregation,” so everyone will respect Joshua, the new leader.

It may not be as obvious to us who should lead our Moishe House communities or even if individual leadership is appropriate. What is important is that we all give some thought to continuity of leadership. I know that Moishe House Boston has a Transition Team, whose job is to create a fully accountable, democratic leadership structure. At Moishe House London we too are looking into how we can make sure the good things we are building in our community long survive our residency. That way, perhaps, we can let go with a sense of satisfaction and peace.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes

Shabbat Balak (The Book of Numbers/ Sefer Bamidbar 22:2 – 25:9)
14 Tammuz 5770 / June 26th, 2010

Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes!

In this week's Torah portion we read about King Balak of Moav who enlists the prophet Baalam ben Be'Or to curse the Israelites for fear that they will destroy Moav in battle.

The story goes that G-d becomes angry that Baalam went without waiting for the King's messengers to come get him first, and thus, an angel with a fiery sword is sent to block his way. On three occasions the angel appears in Baalam and his donkey's path. Baalam is blind to the angel, though the donkey can see the swinging flaming sword held by the celestial being. The donkey avoids the angel at each point and Baalam, angrily punishes the donkey for skirting the path.

How is the donkey able to see the angel and Baalam not? This is a great question for the month of Tammuz, which has a Kabalisic association with the quality of site. Both people and animals have ways of being on auto-pilot. It seems that for non-human creatures (from rocks to trees to donkeys), being alive is somewhat simple. They just go with the flow following the rules of biology. They interact with the world with the goal of survival, and see what they need to see to enact this goal. It is natural for them. For humans, things can be more complicated. What does it mean for you to simply be yourself in this world? There is no ONE authentic way to be you! And so, sometimes it is easy to switch to autopilot, moving in one direction by solely focusing on what serves your chosen momentum.

The problem with this kind of autopilot, as we see with Baalam, is that we might begin to ignore the signs that beckon us to shift directions. We can begin to become insensitive to both the beauty and pain that calls to our attention. This week's portion can serve as a reminder for us to keep looking at the world with fresh eyes. As human beings with have the opportunity to live life with astounding awareness, ensuring that in each moment we are living with our highest vision of self in mind.      


Many blessings!
Zvi
MHHQ