Community Rabbi Corner, May 28, 2021

Rabbi Adrienne Rubin
Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael
Springfield, NJ
Parashat B'ha'alotcha

Trusting Others to Lead

Anyone who has ever managed volunteers knows that every volunteer has a mind of their own. When we give something to a volunteer to do, we have to be willing to let that volunteer do the work the way the volunteer wants to do it. Consequently, there is a tension between the volunteer’s individual responsibility and creativity and the fear and loss of control on the part of the staff member or managing volunteer. This tension is at the root of many failed volunteer experiences and relationships.

This is not just a volunteer issue, though. Anytime we give someone else something to do, they will not do it exactly the way we would do it. This is hard for us. As human beings we have a natural tendency to want everything around us to be done… well… our way.  Everyone has their own way of loading the dishwasher, filing their important papers, making that all-important family recipe, even driving a route to work or school. But when we ask someone else to do something, we are yielding that control, whether we like it or not.

In this week’s Torah portion, B’ha’alotcha, Moses is overwhelmed with the complaints of the people and tells God he just can't take it anymore. God tells Moses to gather 70 elders and empower them to help lead the people. Two of these elders, however, do not go to the Tent of Meeting to receive the spirit of God. Instead, they stay where they are and receive the spirit of God anyway. A boy tells Joshua, who is upset by this, and he tells Moses to stop these people. Moses’ reaction? Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone had the spirit of God!

It takes high self-esteem to be willing to let someone else lead in a way that you would not lead. It takes real trust to allow someone else to step into a role for which you did not train them personally. It takes great confidence to give something or someone you love the chance to grow beyond where you have brought it with your actions and leadership. In telling Joshua to allow these two men to lead in their own way, Moses is preparing Joshua for his own leadership role. Empowering others to get the job done is the only way the job will get done.

Summer is a time when many organizations change their boards and board leadership. It is a time when volunteers step up to plan new and exciting ways for their organizations and communities to make a difference in the coming academic year. It is a time when students graduate and move on to new adventures. May those of us needing to let go and yield our positions of leadership and authority to others have the self-esteem, trust and confidence to do so with grace and encouragement so that our communities continue to flourish.

Kein Y’hi Ratzon.
May it be so.