Diminished Leadership

Moshe Kempinski

We are living in a time of diminished leadership. Spiritual giants such as Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ( z’tsl) and others have been taken away from us. Elections to appoint the chief rabbis have been mired in recrimination and rancor. Our political leadership seem glued to their opinion poll results and ratings At a time when leadership seems so necessary and so critical ,we find ourselves orphaned and bereft.

In the book of Deuteronomy we hear Moshe Rabbeinu recounting the sin of the spies that condemned the people of Israel into 40 years of wandering. Moshe tells them:” But you did not want to go up, and you rebelled against the commandment of Hashem, your G-d. You murmured in your tents and said, ‘”Because Hashem hates us, He took us out of the land of Egypt , to deliver us into the hand[s] of the Amorites to exterminate us.”( Deuteronomy 1:26-27)

Then Moshe tells them the following

“Hashem was also angry with me because of you, saying, “Neither will you go there. “(ibid:37) Moshe is telling them that it was because of them that G-d was incensed also with Moshe and denied him access to the land.

The words ” because of you” are striking because we know from the book of Numbers
Moshe was forbidden to enter the land of Israel with the people “Because you did not believe in Me, to sanctify Me before the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore, you will not bring this congregation into the land I have given them.” (numbers 20:12)

We can perhaps understand that when Moshe is explaining that he is not entering the land of Israel on account of the spies, he is speaking in very general terms about his failure as a leader. For it was his responsibility as a leader to inspire his people to follow the correct path in the way of G-d. .Moshe is taking some of the responsibility for their errors as a people

Yet there is more.

As we approach the final days and hours of Moshe’s existence in this reality we are also reminded of others who have left.

The Talmud (Massechet Taanit) teaches that there were three miraculous gifts bestowed upon the Israelites in the wilderness: The first was the well of water which accompanied the people on their voyage, which came on account of Miriam.The second gift was the Clouds of Glory which came on account of Aaron, and the third was the Manna which came on account of Moshe. When Aaron passed away the Clouds of Glory went away, only to come back on Moshe’s merit. When Moshe passed away, all three of these miraculous phenomena disappeared.

The passing away of these great leaders did not transpire as a punishment on the people of Israel . Rather, in their maturation as a people of G-d this was to be an opportunity. True , it was an opportunity fraught with much pain and sorrow, but it was to be an opportunity nevertheless.

There are times in the history of a people wherein great leaders dull the fervor of a nation and remove their will to grow. The charisma , merits and spiritual stamina of the leader serves to prop up the people. They are deprived of the need to grow and develop. Now the people were to enter the land of Israel and leave the spiritual cocoon of the desert wilderness .They were no longer going to be protected by clouds of glory, quenched by a miraculous well and fed from the bread of angels”. They were now going to be pushed into adulthood.

The words “” because of you “ in Hebrew “biglalchem” is more aptly translated as ” for your sake”. Moshe is saying that, in essence , he was barred from entering the land because his continued leadership would be a hindrance in their growth and maturation as a people

Our sages in tractate Sota ( 49b) describe fifteen unfavorable characteristics which will be prominent during the final days .It ends this description with statement “ the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog,(Pnei Hador KiPnei Hakelev) .“

On this last statement, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter explains 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, here in Israel and around the world.

Yet all these fifteen characteristics and the ensuing lack of leadership is meant to bring about the final statement in this Talmudic discussion.” Therefore upon whom can we rely ? Only upon our Father who is in heaven’.

In the book of Ezekiel Hashem castigates the shepherds/leaders that have let the sheep go astray and graze in foreign pastures. Then Hashem declares ” For thus says Hashem G-D: Behold, here am I, and I will search for My sheep, and seek them out. …..And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the habitable places of the country. (Ezekiel 34:11-13).

” Therefore upon whom can we rely ? Only upon Avine SheBashamayim(our Father Who is in heaven)”

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