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Learning how to lead

Be'halot'cha (Numbers 8-12 )

by Rabbi Boruch Leff

The first Rashi in Parshat Be'Ha'alotcha raises a puzzling question.

(Loose translation): "Why was the section of the Menorah placed near the passage dealing with the offerings of the princes of Israel? Because when Aharon saw the offerings brought by the princes, at the Tabernacle inauguration ceremony, he became depressed. Neither he nor his tribe, Levi, was involved in it. God told him, 'Your task is greater than theirs! You prepare and light the candles of the Menorah!'"

Aharon was depressed because neither he nor his tribe was involved in the Dedication of the Tabernacle. Firstly, who should be depressed? Wasn't Moshe the titular head of the tribe of Levi? He was the leader of all Israel, a greater prophet than Aharon, and seemingly the leader of the tribe of Levi as well. Aharon is only the leader of the priests, a sub-set of Levi. Why then is Aharon morose? And why isn't Moshe depressed?

In addition, has Aharon forgotten something? Hasn't he seen his brother, Moshe, actively involved in the inauguration ceremony? He was the one commanded by God to convey all directives of the construction of the Tabernacle. Moshe brought many of the sacrifices and did most of the service of the dedication (See VaYikra, Chapter 8). How can Aharon claim then that the tribe of Levi was uninvolved?

The solution is this. Moshe, by dint of his becoming the leader of the entire Jewish People, was no longer a member of the tribe of Levi. When one is the national leader, he loses his provincial and parochial interests. He personifies the nation, not merely one tribe.

Moshe's involvement in the Tabernacle cannot be seen as Levi's involvement. His involvement is the Jewish People's involvement. He is the leader of all, and all Jews see themselves in Moshe. As Maimonides writes: "The king's heart is the heart of the entire community of Jews."(Laws of Kings 3:6)

This is why the Torah states that a rebellion against the king of the Jewish people warrants the death penalty. It is not merely a revolt against one individual but against the entire nation.

This idea is also why King David is the author of Psalms. The Book of Psalms is the expression of the soul of the Jewish nation. You can open Psalms at any time in your life and find chapters that are intellectually relevant, and emotionally fulfilling. It is almost as if King David studied the hearts of each and every one of us and knew the challenges we continuously face. This is because David was king and therefore the heart of the people. David understood our joys and our pains, our passions and our frustrations. Through being the collective heart of Israel, he understood what flows through our hearts for all generations. This is why Psalms is a book as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago, when it was first written.

We may not realize it, but at certain times in our lives, we are all leaders. Some of us are parents, some of us head classes, some of us lead groups, and some of us lead prayers. We all lead at times. How can we lead effectively and properly?

We must always remember to peer into the hearts of the people we lead. We must feel their pain and joy. We must discover what is important to them and address their concerns. We must become the embodiment and the heart of the people.

We must never forget the true purpose of leadership. Never can we take leadership roles for selfish reasons and self-aggrandizement. Certainly, we must never abuse our power. Maimonides writes concerning a king but his words apply to all leaders:

"His heart must be low. He must not lead through conceit and haughtiness. He must be merciful and gracious to all and walk around with the concerns of his subjects on his mind. He must respect the honor of those who are smaller than he. He must be exceedingly humble." (Excerpts from Laws of Kings 2:6)

Let us LEAD our lives properly.

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