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Tamuz 22 5778


Written by the rabbi

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.

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