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D’var for V’zot Haberachah

October 18, 2019

What is the toughest part of being a leader? Some will say having to take charge or admitting you were wrong, but if BBYO teaches us anything, it is that the hardest part of being a leader is accepting when you are no longer one. Democracy is one of the biggest strengths of our leadership structure but also is the cause of so much emotional anguish. Everyone who holds a position will eventually leave it. Whether you lose your next election, get elected to a different board, or graduate while serving the Movement, in a relatively short period of time, you have to give it up. 

As leaders, we put literal blood, sweat, and tears into our communities. Across the world, Alephs and BBGs are devoting innumerable hours each day to making a program just a little better or reaching out to one more member. So when we find ourselves suddenly not holding that role we feel like we are missing a part of ourselves and it hurts. 

In the Torah portion of V’zot Haberachah, Moses encounters a similar situation. After 40 years leading the Children of Israel through the desert, he is told that he will not enter the Promised Land. Moses, who has dedicated his whole life to answering G-d’s call and leading his people, is forced to pass on the mantle of leadership just before the Children of Israel can reap the fruits of his labors. We know from our own experiences that Moses must have been devastated by this, which makes his next actions so interesting. 

Moses knew that his life was coming to a close and was denied the privilege of entering the Promised Land, and yet he chooses to bless the people. He blesses each of the tribes individually and then all of the Children of Israel together. He begs G-d to keep them strong and prosperous. Moses does not protest G-d’s decision nor act selfishly, but instead spends his last moments on the face of the Earth doing everything he can for the next generation.

This is because Moses understood that as important as the work he did was, the most important thing he would do as a leader was to set up the next generation and the generations to follow for success. He knew that while his impact was great—in fact, the Torah says there will never again be a prophet as great as him—the combined impact of his blessing on every future generation of Jewish leaders is infinitely greater. 

That blessing now rests on us. As leaders of the Jewish people today, we are all the successors to Moses. Just like him, the future of our people lies in our ability to lead them; like him, we may lead our people for 40 years of terrible conditions only for the next generation of leaders to see the benefits. But either way, when our time as leaders is up, no matter what we feel inside, it is our duty to teach our successors everything we know and give them our blessing for them to succeed. 

Chazak! Chazak! V’nitchazek!

Be strong! Be strong! And let us be strengthened!

From the current Grand Aleph Shaliach and International Sh'licha.

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