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Defining Reality
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One of the gifts of great leaders, and one from which each of us can learn, is that they frame reality for the group. They define its situation. They specify its aims. They articulate its choices. They tell us where we are and where we are going in a way no satellite navigation system could. […]
To Lead is to Listen
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“If only you would listen to these laws …” (Deut. 7: 12). These words with which our parsha begins contain a verb that is a fundamental motif of the book of Devarim. The verb is sh-m-a. It occurred in last week’s parsha in the most famous line of the whole of Judaism, Shema Yisrael. It […]
The Fewest of all Peoples
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Buried inconspicuously in this week’s parsha is a short sentence with explosive potential, causing us to think again about the nature of Jewish history and the Jewish task in the present. Moses had been reminding the new generation, the children of those who left Egypt, of the extraordinary story of which they are the heirs: […]
The Leader as Teacher
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It was one of the great moments of personal transformation, and it changed not only Moses but our very conception of leadership itself. By the end of the book of Bamidbar, Moses career as a leader seemed to have come to its end. He had appointed his successor, Joshua, and it would be he, not […]
Leadership at Time of Crisis
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The parsha of Masei always occurs at the heart of the Three Weeks. This is the time when we engage in an act of collective recall of our two greatest defeats as a nation. The symbol of the nation was the Temple in Jerusalem. So the symbol of the nation’s defeat was the destruction of […]
Conflict Resolution
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One of the hardest tasks of a leader – from prime ministers to parents – is conflict resolution. Yet it is also the most vital. Where there is leadership, there is long-term cohesiveness within the group, whatever the short-term problems. Where there is a lack of leadership – where leaders lack authority, grace, generosity of […]
Lessons of a Leader
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Pinchas contains a mini-essay on leadership, as Moses confronts his own mortality and asks God to appoint a successor. The great leaders care about succession. In Chayei Sarah we see Abraham instruct his servant to find a wife for Isaac so that the family of the covenant will continue. David chooses Solomon. Elijah, at God’s […]
Leadership and Loyalty
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Is leadership a set of skills, the ability to summon and command power? Or does it have an essentially moral dimension also? Can a bad man be a good leader, or does his badness compromise his leadership? That is the question raised by the key figure in this week’s parsha, the pagan prophet Bilaam. First, […]
Miriam, Moses’ Friend
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It is one of the great mysteries of the Torah. Arriving at Kadesh the people find themselves without water. They complain to Moses and Aaron. The two leaders go to the Tent of Meeting and there they are told by God to take the staff and speak to the rock, and water will emerge. Moses’ […]
Servant Leadership
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“You have gone too far! The whole community are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above God’s congregation?” (Num. 16: 3). What exactly was wrong in what Korach and his motley band of fellow agitators said? We know that Korach was a demagogue, not […]