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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Moses and the Staff of Leadership

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson





The statesman and the politician: Competence and reticence vs. empty promises and the lust for power

JewishWorldReview.com | And Moses responded, saying, "But [the people] will not believe me and they will not heed my voice, for they will say, 'G-d did not appear to you.'" And G-d said to him, "What is that in your hand?" And he said, "A staff." (Exodus 4:1-2)

It's easy to understand why Moses was anything but eager to accept the onus of leadership. After 210 years of Egyptian bondage, what possible reason would the Jewish people have to believe Moses when he claimed that the Almighty had sent him to redeem them? How would he convince a broken nation that he had either the authority or the ability to lead them out of slavery?

G-d's answer, however, is even more difficult to comprehend. Seemingly, G-d wanted Moses to cast his staff upon the ground to show him its miraculous transformation into a snake --- the sign by which Moses would prove himself to the people. If so, why did G-d not simply say, "Cast your staff upon the ground." Why did the Almighty first ask Moses to identify the object he was holding?

In his classic commentary, Rabbi Meir Libush Malbim explains that Moses could have answered in one of three possible ways. As a shepherd, he could have identified his staff as a makeil, a shepherd's crook. As an eighty year old man, he could have referred to it as a mashenes, a cane or walking stick. Finally, he could have called it as he did — a matteh, which means staff, but which also can mean scepter, a symbol of sovereignty and leadership.

Moses had directed his objection not solely at the people's unwillingness to follow, but at his own lack of distinction as a leader. Who am I, he questioned, that the people should put their trust in me? And so, G-d presented Moses with a test.

THE WAY WE SEE OURSELVES
What is that in your hand? the Almighty asked, implying that whatever reply Moses gave would answer his own question. Did Moses see himself as an old man, needing a cane to support him? Did he see himself as a simple shepherd, adept at leading sheep but not his fellow Jews? Or did he see himself as possessing the nobility of character necessary to successfully shoulder the responsibilities of leadership?

Confronted with these choices, Moses could only answer the truth. It was not lack of humility but an abundance of honesty and integrity that compelled Moses to acknowledge that he was neither a feeble old man in need of support nor a mere shepherd whose purpose in life was defined by his lowly profession. Moses recognized that the Almighty had created him to be something more — the leader of a nation — and had instilled in him the qualities that prepared him for greatness.

But the lesson was not yet over. Further on in the narrative, G-d commands:

And this staff you shall take in your hand, with which you will perform the miracles (4:17)

As a constant reminder of the confidence Moses had shown in himself, G-d commanded him to carry the staff with him always, and to use it as the instrument for bringing about G-d's signs and wonders. In this way, the Almighty communicated the critical lesson that if Moses believed in himself, and was justified in that belief, the people would recognize his confidence and believe in him as well. And so they did.



In contrast, when the prophetess Deborah instructed her husband, Barak, to lead the people into battle against the Canaanite general Sisera, Barak refused to go unless Deborah accompanied him. Deborah replied: "I will surely go with you; however, your effort will bring you no honor" (Judges 4:9). Rather than rise to the occasion, Barak refused to believe that he could succeed on his own. Deborah did not argue, for she understood that people will never place their confidence in a leader who has no confidence in himself. Instead of becoming a hero, Barak assured his place as little more than a footnote to history.

There is, however, the more subtle point that accepting the responsibilities of leadership is not synonymous with seeking power. Moses neither sought nor desired the position of leader over the Jewish people, but neither did he refuse the position when it was thrust upon him. From his example we learn that a healthy reluctance to assume power over others is a sign of true character and authentic leadership.

NO REFLECTIONS OF GREATNESS
Perhaps the most troubling development in contemporary politics is the selling of political power. Only the very rich — or those with very rich friends — can realistically aspire to positions of authority. And what motivates those willing to spend their own millions or the millions of others to win the privilege of wielding power? When was the last time we saw even the palest reflection of reticence in any of our so-called public servants?


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During the era of the judges of Israel, the usurper Avimelech murdered his 70 half-brothers to seize control over the Jewish nation. Only one brother, Yosom, escaped the massacre. However, before he fled into hiding, Yosom paused to chastise the people for standing by and permitting Avimelech to carry out his bloody coup. In his rebuke, he offered a tantalizing parable, paraphrased here:

The trees went looking for a leader. They came first to the olive tree, but the olive tree said, "Should I leave my oil to hold sway over the trees?" Next they came to the fig tree, but the fig tree said, "Should I leave my sweetness to hold sway over the trees?" Then they came to the grapevine, but the grapevine said, "Should I leave my wine to hold sway over the trees?" Finally, all the trees came to the thorn bush, which said, "Come take comfort in my shade; and if not, a fire will go forth and devour you all" (Judges 8:7-15).

Of course, a thorn bush has no shade to offer, and can do nothing but inflict injury and discomfort. But when men of quality and accomplishment (symbolized by the olive tree, the fig tree, and the vine) recognize that the people have no desire to be led, that the masses seek only feeble-hearted leaders to do their bidding, then why should they abandon their own comfort and prosperity to shoulder the fruitless and thankless burdens of authority?

And when no worthy candidates can be found, where else will the people turn than to those who make the promises the people want to hear, no matter how impractical or implausible? And how often are those promises complemented by threats, veiled or otherwise, of the consequences of looking elsewhere for "leadership"?

When authority devolves into the hands of those who can afford to make the loudest noise and the most sweeping promises, then the people have no right to complain about the quality of the leaders to whom they have subordinated themselves. Only when people seek genuine leaders will they find individuals worthy of leadership. And only when people are willing to follow will they find worthy individuals willing to lead.


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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis, MO, where he also writes and lectures. He is author of Dawn to Destiny: Exploring Jewish History and its Hidden Wisdom, an overview of Jewish philosophy and history from Creation through the compilation of the Talmud, now available from Judaica Press. Visit him at http://torahideals.com .






© 2013, Rabbi Yonason Goldson