You may have picked up from previous Shabbat Shalom messages, I stream a whole lot of TV. It’s one of the few things that lets me truly decompress and allows my mind to focus on things other than the chaos of day to day life. This weekend I found myself re-watching the “newish” Star Trek movie. Not to spoil this movie for anyone who has not seen it, but a quick plot summary would be that Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise must save Earth and the universe from alien powers. But more interesting was the dynamic built between Kirk and his first officer Mr. Spock. The two officers are new to their roles as leaders. Kirk’s recklessness and Spock’s unwavering commitment to the rules irks the other individual. However, each is tasked with saving each other and their crew mates in the face of adversity. When the odds seem too great to overcome, both characters demonstrate their superior leadership abilities. We see similar leadership from Moses in this week’s Torah portion.
In this week’s Torah portion, there are a slew of happenings. Pinchas, who the parshah is named for, kills Zimri and Cozbi for having sex in the Mishkan; the plague that inflicted the Israelites is lifted; a second census is taken; Moses receives directions on dividing Israel amongst the tribes; the daughters of Zelophehad claim their inheritance; and, what I see as the most pivotal scene, Moses is told he won’t be leading the people into Israel and Joshua is appointed as the leader of the Israelites. In a scene reminiscent of a sad movie ending when the main character knows their end is upon them, God shows Moses the Land of Israel and tells him that he won’t be bringing the Jewish people into the land. Moses immediately replies:
“May … God … appoint a man over the assembly, who shall go out before them … and let the assembly … not be like sheep that have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16-17)
When Moses was told by God that he wouldn’t be able to lead the Jewish people into the land of Israel, his knee-jerk response was not focused on his own fate, but rather to make sure that the Israelites would still have someone in his absence who would continue to lead them. This is why Moses was one of the greatest leaders in our collective history.
The ability to focus on other people’s needs when the “going gets tough” and not on your own wants and desires is the true definition of leadership. Being a leader is not about the recognition or accolades you might receive, but rather it’s the constant focus on the specific needs that are most important to those who are following you. Therefore, if for one reason or another, you’re no longer able to lead them, you will automatically put their fears and concerns as your primary focus.
The world is littered with countless numbers of cases where, once someone was asked to stop doing something, he or she ceased to care about the people whom their work was affecting. It makes you wonder if they really ever truly cared about them in the first place. The true colors of a leader are on full display when they leave their leadership position, to see if they ever give even a passing thought to all those who believed in them, their vision, and dream.
The powerful message Moses taught us all is to fight the urge to initially take a demotion or firing personally. There will certainly be time to think about the impact of how this decision affects you. But right now your concern must be about those who trusted you.
Make no mistake; it certainly takes a lot of class to have your focus be on others when your ego, self-esteem, and your self-worth are seemingly all on the line. But it’s precisely this knee-jerk response which separates a good leader from a great one.
- Shabbat T’tzaveh - February 13, 2019
- Shabbat Bo - January 9, 2019
- Shabbat Miketz - December 4, 2018
- Shabbat Chayei Sarah - October 31, 2018
- Shabbat Ha’Azinu - September 18, 2018
- Shabbat Shoftim - August 15, 2018
- Shabbat Pinchas - July 3, 2018
- Shabbat Beha’alotcha - May 31, 2018
- Shabbat Emor - April 25, 2018
- Shabbat Tzav - March 21, 2018