The Torah vision for our approach to leadership development is the relationship of Moses and Adonai. This model redefines the role of a leader, the importance of which we shall see momentarily. For if Moses is no longer to comply with Adonai's charge to carry the people, then what is his mission as a leader?
The answer, we believe, is revealed in Moses' response to the prophesying of Eldad and Medad in the camp. To the report of their unauthorized prophesying, Joshua says to Moses, "Forbid them." But Moses responds, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!" (Emphasis ours.)
Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch comments on the preceding verse: ". . . Moses' answer to Joshua remains for all teachers and leaders as the brilliant example they should keep before their eyes . . . to make themselves superfluous, that the people of all classes and ranks reach such a spiritual level that they no longer require teachers and leaders. And indeed the successors of these 'elders' have well inherited the spirit of their Moses, have recognized their highest mission to be to make the knowledge of the Torah the broadest foundation of life in the people, and have proclaimed 'establish many learners' . . . as the first maxim for all spiritual leaders of their people. With his 'Are you jealous for me?' our Moses has broken down the dividing wall between 'intellectuals' and the 'lower classes,' between clergy and laity, for ever in Israel."
A leader, then, must be one who develops other leaders. But how does that happen?
In our society, leaders are often described as "born that way." They are often regarded as those who "speak well" in front of others, that is, they are good at speech-making. Those who do not speak well are often not thought of and, maybe more importantly, do not think of themselves, as leaders.
Moses himself had this problem. He did not believe that he was a leader. To Adonai's challenge"Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt"Moses reacts, as we might, with quaking confidence and self-deprecation: "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" Neither did he "speak well." In the next chapter, Moses says, "I am not eloquent, neither yesterday nor the day before, nor since you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue."
Given his lack of confidence, how is it that Moses then goes on to gather the people?
It is in a relationship that Moses learns how to be a leader. He is neither born a leader nor programmed by his upbringing to become one: his transformation occurs visibly through the sustained tutelage of Adonai. The character of their relationship is that Adonai speaks to Moses "as a man speaks to his friend": face to face, mouth to mouth, and eye to eye. They communicate directly! Their relationship shows the proximate character of all relationships for effective leadership development: they are panim el panim (face to face).
The importance of the relationship between Adonai and Moses becomes apparent when we examine what Adonai does to help Moses build his confidence. Adonai's first response is support: "Certainly I will be with you." What may be less apparent is the role that challenge plays in building Moses' confidence. Moses is challenged to do something that he has not done before. Rashi says it took Adonai seven days to convince Moses to do it. To Moses' continued arguments that he does not speak well, Adonai responds: "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Is it not I Adonai? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you shall say."
Moses holds Adonai accountable, although that tradition neither began nor ended with him. With the destruction of the Israelites imminent for their sin of making and worshipping the molten calf, Moses argues with God: "Adonai, why does your anger burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?" "Turn from your fierce anger, and repent of this evil against your people." The response: "Adonai repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people." Thus, in the context of a relationship, both support and challenge are necessary to the development of leaders.
If we want to test the efficacy of leadership, we may ask: How many leaders, who were not previously considered leaders, have you gathered this past year? And how many leaders are they gathering? The significance of these questions is numerical, for if leaders gather other leaders, who themselves become gatherers, then there is a potential multiplication of the number of leaders.
In regard to Adonai saying, "I will take of the spirit which is upon you and will put it upon them," Rashi understands the meaning from the Targum (the Aramaic translation of the Pentateuch) as "And I will make great [the spirit that is on Moses]."
Interpreting this "divine manifestation," the instance of God's coming down to take of the spirit within Moses and to put it upon the 70 others, Rashi asks: "To what may Moses be likened at that moment? To a light lying upon a candlestick, and everyone kindles (the other lights) from it, but its own light does not diminish at all."
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© 2019 Moshe ben Asher & Khulda bat Sarah