The world is suffering from a dearth of leadership. Leaders are blown from side to side by the powerful winds of political correctness and societal whims. Truth is ignored and life and death decisions are postponed. Arrogance has replaced discernment and small mindedness has overtaken vision and principle. All this is done , so that the status quo can be maintained. This wave of”lack of leadership” has engulfed Europe , washed over Washington and is transforming the Israeli Knesset. This phenomenon is not only saddening it is in fact dangerous for the whole world that is in the midst of such great upheaval.
Our sages in tractate Sota ( 49b) describe fifteen characteristics which will be prominent during the final days . In the midst of this description they wrote:
“When the footsteps of the Messiah can be heard…chutzpah (insolence) will increase; inflation will soar; the vine will yield its fruit, but wine will be expensive; the dominant power in the world will promote the denial of G-d; no one will be able to reprove another [for everyone will be guilty of the same transgressions]; the meeting place (of Torah scholars) will be used for immorality…. those who fear sin will be despised; … the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog …“
On the last statement “the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog,(Pnei Hador KiPnei Hakelev) “Rabbi Yisrael Salanter understands that the term “face of the generation” is referring to leaders of the generation. A dog will always walk ahead of its master, with the master holding onto its leash . To someone watching from the side it may look like the dog is pulling the person ahead. Yet it is noticeable that the dog will always turn its face towards the person behind him as it runs ahead. The dog is constantly trying to get direction from those that he seemingly is leading.
That is the state of our leadership today.
We read in the torah portion of Shmot:
“An angel of HaShem appeared to him in a flame of fire from within the thorn bush, and behold, the thorn bush was burning with fire, but the thorn bush was not being consumed. So Moshe said, “Let me turn now and see this great spectacle why does the thorn bush not burn up?” HaShem saw that he had turned to see, and God called to him from within the thorn bush, and He said, “Moshe, Moshe!” And he said, “Here I am!”( Exodus 3:2-4)
There is great significance to the words “HaShem saw that he had turned to see, “. G-d clearly was waiting for that determined choice of Moshe to step into his destiny. After that choice G-d began to talk to him. Moshe had passed the test of leadership. It is true that very few people would not have been intrigued by this supernatural phenomenon. Yet Moshe knew that if he wanted to continue the state of anonymity he had adopted for over sixty years, he needed to ignore what he saw.
The true leadership must learn to look around at the world and its events with discerning eyes. They then must make true choices regarding the future and direction of their people. They must learn to listen with their eyes and only then truly hear the call of destiny.
G-d then gives the instructions to Moshe as to how to do this. He says “And He said, “Do not draw near here. Take your shoes off your feet, because the place upon which you stand is holy soil.”(Exodus 3:5)
I once heard from Rabbi Michi Yosefi a very powerful insight on this verse.The words “Take your shoes off your feet” seem to echo other words. The words “your shoes (Naalecha)” whisper of another Hebrew word Manulim or locks. The word “your feet ( raglecha) ” is related to the word Hergelecha or your habits.
HaShem is saying that in order to take on the role of leadership, one must remove the locks or constraints in our lives put there by our habits and societal norms. Only then can a leader stand on holy ground and truly lead.