Parashat Vayelech features one of the most bittersweet moments in the story of the Torah; Moshe leaving the Jewish people. On the one hand, we are about to enter the land of Israel, something beyond incredibly important and special in our existence as a Jewish people. On the other hand, our longtime leader, Moshe, is leaving us and passing the torch over to Joshua. Alongside teaching us about emunah, or faith in G-d, via the fallout of Moshe’s incident with the rock, this transition contains a very important lesson about leadership.
As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks points out, Moshe stresses the importance of consistently having the support and the backing of the people. Moshe himself, suffered several times throughout his life from not having the support of all his people. This was especially true when Korach led a rebellion against Moshe. As Joshua was set to take over the mantle of leadership, this was to be a crucial lesson for Joshua and any future leader in whatever setting; to remember that a leader is nothing without those they lead, and that having the popular consent or respect is crucial. As any BBYO teen on a board will tell you, being elected to serve requires trust in you from your peers, and it is only fair that an elected leader works to best help those who entrusted them with the duty, something Moshe teaches Joshua, and a lesson that we can all carry on in our day-to-day leadership.
While to Moshe, this was the most essential key to being a successful leader, G-d, however, has a different lesson for Joshua. G-d took the more assertive route, assuring Joshua that people often disagreed and caused unnecessary problems. G-d reinforced the idea of strong leadership, reminding Joshua that as a leader, he need not always consult the people. After all, people often lack awareness, as seen in the incident with the golden calf. In BBYO terms, always deferring to your peers instead of taking an assertive stance yourself is sometimes a recipe for disaster, as there will be times when you need to make unpopular or difficult decisions, often without the support of everyone.
While these are wildly different styles of leadership, they can and must coexist. Having these complementary fundamentals of leadership and their yin-yang style relationship guiding you is the most effective way to be a versatile and powerful leader. Leaders must step up when the time is right with assertion and power, but also must consult with their peers to ensure they have the consent and support of those they represent or govern. Incorporating a balance of both control and consultation will not just make you a leader like never before but is also a most crucial skill to be successful in life.
99th Grand Aleph Mazkir, Miami
Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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