Dear Friends,

This past week we concluded our Zoom-series, Ner Tamid Covid Heroes. It was an absolute joy and inspiration discussing the incredible work that our heroes accomplished during these most trying of times. The final segment consisted of an interview with our shuls president, Adam Klaff, vice-president, Aaron Polun, chair, Gabrielle Burger, vicechair, Deborah Hamburger, and treasurer, Avi Jandorf. We learned about the difficult decisions that were made to keep the shul afloat, the sleepless nights, and the never-ending issues that needed their full attention every day of the week. If you missed it you can still listen to it on iTunes by clicking here – I found our talk not only uplifting but also elucidating in that this group demonstrated to us all one of the key features of leadership.

In this week’s Parsha, the greatest leader in our history and possibly world history, was let go. God informed Moshe that he would not lead the Jewish People into the land of Israel because of what transpired at Mei Merivah. Mei Merivah was the site of the infamous episode where Moshe who was supposed to speak to the rock to bring forth its water, hits the rock instead. Many commentators are not content with this explanation; can it really be that Moshe loses his role because he hit instead of spoke? What difference does it really make? One way or another, through this act, Moshe demonstrated the wondrous capabilities of God.

Abraham Ibn Ezra, a 12th century Jewish scholar posits that Moshe’s mistake was not that he did not obey God’s instruction. Moshe’s mistake was that he waited for God to instruct him. Initiative, seeing a problem and working on a solution, is fundamental to transformative leadership and Moshe, by waiting for God to guide him, failed in that regard. To Moshe’s credit, through Egypt and in the desert, when regular miracles and Divine teachings teachings were their way of life, a humble and submissive servant, channeling God’s word and command through his selfless being, was precisely what was needed. But as they were preparing to enter the land of Israel, a world void of miracles, it was crucial that they had a leader who acted on their own. This failing, the lack of initiative, explains Ibn Ezra, is what prevented Moshe from being the leader of the Jewish People as they entered the Land of Israel. 

We usually have a chance to thank our leadership on Shavuos when we celebrate the changing of the shul guards. Sadly, this year, we were unable to do so. I want to take this opportunity to thank our leadership for weathering one of the wildest storms of the century. It took a lot of time, energy, and strength, but it also took and continues to take initiative; initiative to plan ahead for the unknown, initiative to anticipate endless possibilities, and initiative to ensure that we will not only survive but come out stronger.

In truth, we are all leaders. We lead those in our sphere of influence, and we lead ourselves. It is hard to be proactive in such a fluctuating world but being reactionary is far worse. Let us be inspired by the many great leaders in our midst to anticipate as best as possible what will be, and to proactively build for a better tomorrow. We will not be in this state forever, all things come to an end. But instead of waiting for a better day to happen, let us lead the way, in changing things for the better, one deed and one day at a time.      

Good Shabbos, 

Yisrael Motzen