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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Pinchas


Rabbi Stewart WeissTamuz 22 5778
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The greatness of Moshe - & his intense devotion to Am Yisrael – is evident until the very last moments of his life. Told by Hashem that he would not enter Eretz Yisrael, due to striking the rock at Mei M’riva, Moshe immediately petitions G-d for a new & able leader to take his place.

But Moshe’s request is quite puzzling. He says: "May Hashem appoint someone who will go out & come in before them; who will take them out & bring them in."

What exactly does this enigmatic statement mean? Is a leader meant to pull his followers after him, or push them?

Rav Zweig offers the following explanation:

"The Torah is teaching us here the fundamentals of leadership. Every leader actually has two roles; one is to lead by example, the other is to direct the people to do what needs to be done. The primary responsibility of a leader is to inspire the people to act in a certain way; a leader therefore needs to be relatable & charismatic enough that the people will follow his lead. They need to look up to him & want to emulate him & his way of living, & buy into his goals to help fulfill his vision for the community. But a leader also has an important secondary role as well; to make sure his followers are doing what they are supposed to be doing, even when they don't want to do the right thing. This is a much harder task, as it must come from an outside force rather than an inner motivation. A leader is duly empowered to force his constituents to do the right thing, even – perhaps especially - when they don't want to."

Moshe ably filled both of these roles. On the one hand, he was the paradigm of justice, loyalty, Ahavat Yisrael, chesed, mesirat nefesh & truth. He gave up his exalted position in the palace to join his people, he fought for us, stood up for us; he loved & defended us. His lasting legacy is summed up as "Moshe emet, v’Torato emet." He was a role model par excellence.

But Moshe also stood up TO us when we strayed from the path. He was strict when the situation called for it: he gave us musar & reprimanded us when we needed it; he banished Korach & his followers; he broke the Luchot when we crossed the line in the Golden Calf incident.

The Rabbis who lead us - then and now - must know how & when to pull us closer to Hashem by virtue of their personal example; & they also must know how & when to push us when we need that extra motivation & prodding. It is a delicate balance of finesse & force.

Does your Rabbi fit the bill?
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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