Monday, July 7, 2014

Pinchas 74 Leadership and Mentoring

In  the Parashat-Portion of Pinchas, Moshe – Moses asks God to appoint a new  leader in the hope that one of his sons who he considered worthy  would succeed him. According to the Medrash God said to Moses. ---   “He who keeps the fig tree shall eats its fruit” (Proverbs 27:28). Your sons ( in comparison to Yehoshuah's learning ) sat idly by and did not study the Torah. Joshua served you faithfully and showed you great honor. It was he who rose early in the morning and remained late at night at your House of Assembly. He used to arrange the benches and spread the mats. Seeing that he has served you with all his might, he is worthy to serve Israel, for he shall not lose his reward.
 Besides being a Man of the Spirit,  Medrash notes that Yehoshuah was chosen because he served Moshe and was dedicated to Moses's  mission  of teaching  Israel  the Torah. So why does this make  Yehoshuah  worthy as Moses successor  and qualify him for the leadership above all other contenders?
A.      ' shimush Talmidei Chachamim- serving sages  '  The informal learning and perception  that comes with serving a great Sage and having a special personal bond are lessons about life of the community and leadership that one cannot learn from formal lectures and shi'urim.
B.      Quality of Learning. The Gemarah – Baba Kama 20b as explained by R' Shimon Skop  in the introduction to his book Shaarei Yasher , relates how Rami Bar Chana asked Rav Chisda to perform a personal service for him. This would prove his desire to learn from him , properly reflect  and toil over his answer  as one would toil over the words of one's esteemed Rabbi, teacher and mentor. Only then would he answer Rav Chisda's question.  Rabbi David Lapin infers from this that  serving a great sage – shimush Talmidei Chachamim - impacts on the quality of one's learning ,allowing one to appreciate the subtleties of the teacher's words  and read between the lines . In this way Joshua became Moshe's talmid and disciple.
C.      Serving people and the nation – The Netziv explains that God commanded Moses that  he should place and stand Joshua before Elazar the Kohen-priest and the entire assembly in order to  show him – these are the people you have to empathize and be patient with as you engage in your mission of serving them,  serving your people. Leadership is about service.
Yehoshuah  was the most qualified in all these 3 areas. Serving Moshe  gave Yehoshuah  specialized knowledge and perception about life , leadership and the community. It also  gave Yehoshuah a new deeper understanding of Moshe's teachings and  made him a  person dedicated to serving the community. Being a Talmid –disciple is a precondition for Torah leadership.
For Aaron, passing the crown-keter  of Kehuna- priesthood was not a problem. The Kehuna was already a family business and Aaron had the personality to make sure his sons would carry on his life mission as priests. But one cannot  pass on the crown –keter of Torah. It  depends on the disciple- the Talmid taking the crown . The Rabbi cannot pass it on. It depends on the Disciple/talmid seeking out a mentor and serving him and thereby becoming  the most qualified person  in Israel for the job. It is the passion with which the disciple makes the sage his Rabbi and Mentor that puts him in the position as the bearer of the tradition for the next generation.
One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is to expose him to people who can become his mentors. Because of the more democratic relationship , trust and bonding occurs with much formal and informal learning and guidance taking place. Boys learning with young men from the local Kollel , or kids helping out young adults with their families are opportunities for mentoring relationships. But ultimately the success of a mentoring program depends on the child.
I will end off with a story about David Neils the founder of Tele-mentoring, an organization providing professional mentors for eager and talented pupils. One morning, when David was six years old, he walked over to Mr. Clawson's garage to see what he was building. Mr. Clawson was always inventing something. That day, he was working on a contraption to clean up oil spills in the ocean. David was impressed. Mr. Clawson showed David how his device worked, talking to him as an equal. He then asked David to critique his design and offer suggestions for improvement. This genius was asking a six year old for improvements on an invention that would clean up oil spills! That simple gift of encouragement from Mr. Clawson changed David's life forever. David realized that his own thoughts about the world had value. He was on cloud nine for days and felt he could pursue anything and be successful.

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