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The Leader’s Call to Responsibility
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When words take wing, they modulate into song. That is what they do here in Haazinu as Moses, with the angel of death already in sight, prepares to take leave of this life. Never before had he spoken with such passion. His language is vivid, even violent. He wants his final words never to be […]
Consensus vs. Command?
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What do you say to your successor? What advice do you give him or her? Vayelech is the place to look for the answer, because it is here that Moses finally handed the reins over to Joshua, and he and God both give him a blessing for the future. But they gave different blessings. Listen […]
Defeating Death
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Only now, reaching Nitzavim-Vayelech, can we begin to get a sense of the vast, world- changing project at the heart of the Divine-human encounter that took place in the lifetime of Moses and the birth of Jews/Hebrews/Israel as a nation. To understand it, recall the famous remark of Sherlock Holmes. “I draw your attention,” he […]
A Nation of Storytellers
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Howard Gardner, professor of education and psychology at Harvard University, is one of the great minds of our time. He is best known for his theory of “multiple intelligences,” the idea that there is not one thing that can be measured and defined as intelligence but many different things – one dimension of the dignity […]
Against Hate
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Ki Tetzei contains more laws than any other parsha in the Torah, and it is possible to be overwhelmed by this embarrass de richesse of detail. One verse, however, stands out by its sheer counter-intuitiveness: Do not despise an Edomite, because he is your brother. Do not despise the Egyptian, because you were a stranger […]
Learning and Leadership
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The parsha of Shoftim is the classic source of the three types of leadership in Judaism, called by the sages the “three crowns”: of priesthood, kingship and Torah.[1] This is the first statement in history of the principle, set out in the eighteenth century by Montesquieu in L’Esprit des Lois, and later made fundamental to […]
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 […]