Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Passing on the Mantle of Leadership

Shabbat Vayelech (Shabbat Shuvah)
D’varim  31:1 – 31:30
6 Tishrei 5773 / September 21-22

Passing on the Mantle of Leadership
by Shifra Elman, Moishe House Palo Alto

This week’s parsha see’s Moses, leader of the Jewish people from the time we were slaves in Egypt through the forty years in the desert, pass leadership to Joshua. Joshua was Moses’s student, not his son or any other relation of his, he wasn’t even part of his tribe; Moses was a Levite and Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim (one of the sons of Joseph.) So at the ripe old age of 120 Moses hands over leadership right before they are to enter Israel. Moses, who brought the Jews out of Egypt, gave them the torah on Mount Sinai, built the mishkan(tabernacle,) weathered countless trials with them throughout the forty years in the desert, would not see or enter the promised-land with the Jewish people. He gathers the nation and in front of everyone tells Joshua “Be courageous and bold, for you will come with this people to the land which the Lord promised to their forefathers to give them. And you shall apportion it to them as an inheritance.

With just this small piece of the parsha there are many lessons. The overarching theme is of the importance of passing leadership to the next generation. It is essential to choose the right person for the job and not get caught up in choosing those we don’t want to offend by not choosing, such as our friends or relatives. Had Moses chosen a relation or someone from his tribe he would have opened that person up to questions of competency which may have had the effect of dividing the Jewish people. Since Joshua was neither a relation nor one of his tribe he was starting fresh.

The lesson I take from this is when passing on the mantle of leadership at Moishe House or in any other part of my life is: it important to choose those that will be good for the community and good at the job. It’s the difference between having a really knowledgeable professor who doesn’t know how to give over that information versus one who can do both. Another lesson is that it is also important to publically introduce that person to the community; by publically endorsing this person you are telling the community that has trusted you that you have the utmost faith in the new leadership. While change is inevitable and good; we are giving up the direct control we had in how our community is shaped, by choosing our leaders wisely we have a continuing, if long distance, hand in creating its future.

Shabbat Shalom All! 
Shifra Elman, MoHo Palo Alto


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