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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Parshas Behaaloscha 2001

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

G-d told Moshe that he no longer has to carry the burden of the Jewish
people alone. “Gather unto me seventy elders from the elders of Israel.
Choose those that you know are the elders of the people and stand with
them at the Ohel Moed.” Moshe was told to choose seventy elders from
amongst the millions of Jews. He did not know whom or how to choose.
“How am I supposed to know,” asked Moshe, “who is fit to be a leader and
who isn’t?” G-d responded, “those that you know to be leaders.” You do
know whom to choose.

There were already classified elders in Israel: elders that the evil
Egyptians had chosen as slave drivers, kapos, over the Jewish slaves.
Their job was to be the tyrants that made sure that the Jews produced
their quota. If the elders did not beat the slaves, the Egyptians beat
the elders. These seemingly simple old people responded with greatness.
Rather than whip the Jewish slaves to produce, they themselves were
beaten. “You know exactly who the leaders are,” G-d said to Moshe, “the
ones who were willing to take a beating for their fellow Jews, today
they too will enjoy the prophecy of G-d.” (Medrash Rabba 15;16)

So, in this week’s Parsha we learn a new benchmark for leadership of the
Jewish community. It is not the man or woman that has graduated from
Harvard school of management, nor even from Brisk, Ponevez or the
Yeshiva University Kollel program. A Jewish leader is the man or woman
that has demonstrated that he can take the heat, even the beating, on
behalf of the Jewish people.

Moshe Rabeinu himself had to pass this very same test. It was not until
he stuck his neck out for a Jewish slave and went from prince to
fugitive that he became the ‘Prophet of G-d.’ It was not his wisdom, his
scholarship, or his oratory that made him the leader of his people. It
was his humility, his dedication and his willingness to take a beating
that brought him to the top job. More important, it was his love of
Israel that brought him to prophecy and to the mountain of Hashem.

Who are our prophets? Who are our leaders? Not necessarily the scholars
or the articulate philosophers or the dexterous politicians, if they are
insulated from the people. G-d’s spokespeople are those that feel the
pain of every single Jew, wherever they may be.

If we want to feel the Shechina, when a bomb explodes in Tel Aviv, the
earth should shake in Rockland County. When we hear of a funeral for a
child in Lakewood or an Aguna in Flatbush our hearts should cry. This is
what it means to be connected to the Jewish people. This is how to
become a Prophet.

It is uncomfortable these days to be an observant Jew. We are all
bombarded with news, pictures and cries for help that are difficult to
listen to. I urge you all to resist the temptation of insulation. Klal
Yisroel needs our prayers, our shoulders and our money. If we share the
pain, we will share the insight of leadership, the Shechina, and
ultimately the Geula.

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