Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Shabbat Pinchas
21 Tammuz / July 2 – 3rd

 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.


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