May 23, 2024
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Leadership and Responsibility: Moshe Rabbeinu’s Story

Part II

A number of months ago I wrote about my reflections after reading the weekly Torah portion outlining Moshe Rabbeinu’s role as a leader; I explored the emotional aspect of ruling a nation who were doubtful and disbelieving, rather than coming into the role as leader in a smooth manner.

In recent weeks we read the Torah portion of Chukat, when Moshe was commanded to speak to—and instead—hit the rock at Mei Merivah. This resulted, of course, in his not being able to enter the land of Israel with the nation he had been leading. I was 16 years old when I truly began to think about the emotional aspect of this experience; I was with a friend leaving shul from a Mincha service on Shabbat when this portion was being read, and she stated aloud how difficult this must have been. This friend was, and always has been, wise beyond her years, and was tearful when recognizing how heartbreaking this must have felt. While I had of course learned about the Torah portion at some point in my years of yeshiva education, her empathy and pause (and perhaps my age) allowed me to think more deeply about what happened.

In no way can I pretend to know what this must have actually felt like for Moshe Rabbeinu. But when I think about the way Moshe nearly constantly defended Am Yisrael, advocating for giving them chances both in and when leaving Egypt, I wonder what this must have been like for him. He advocated for this nation and then knew that he would not be able to enter the land described by Hashem and would not be able to witness the nation he led as they finally arrived.

His strength in being able to continue forward is astounding. When he learned that he would not reach the destination, he did not give up. He continued leading; he continued his own personal journey; and he maintained his role as not only a member but as the leader of the Jewish nation. There was no doubt or wavering. I think back to when, at the onset of his interactions with Hashem, he did not believe he could lead the people; he did not feel he was the right person for the role. And after his experience in Mei Merivah we see that he accepted his punishment and also maintained his role as “Rabbeinu.”

So much of what we do in life is about results and reaching goals, whether the goals relate to approval from others, accomplishments, accolades, financial success, or even internal triumph. We typically have markers that help us continue forward, such as positive feedback from a coach or supervisor, being allowed entry to an institution, or even receiving a compliment from a peer, colleague or mentor. Imagine, though, putting in the work and effort while consciously knowing that the end goal will not be met. This means not being attached to the results—placing effort that is unrelated to the outcome, but instead is focused on the process.

There are some experiences in life where we know that the end goal may not be possible, but we believe in the chance and therefore push forward. Perhaps my performance will be given an award and so I will try. But what if we know it won’t? Might it still be worth investing in the performance?

Sometimes the answer will be yes as the process of the performance enables growth and creativity. The journey can still yield results but these results may not have a shiny award or monetary value; they are about internal advancement. When someone opens up about an emotional experience in therapy, there may not be a plan or solution. And yet, sharing can still provide catharsis, validation or connection.

At other times, the process or journey may not feel worth the effort. People may look to take steps—especially ones that may be uncomfortable—only if they can clearly see a result. I believe that one of the many lessons we can learn from Moshe Rabbeinu, is to consider the path and journey, even when the results may be directly in contrast with what we have worked toward. Moshe did not forsake the nation or his identity as a Jew or leader. Instead he maintained his role, even when knowing this devastating information; he continued onward without question. If we can reflect on this ability, we have greater space to grow as individuals and to know the worth and value not only of the process, but of ourselves along the journey.


Temimah Zucker, LCSW, works in New York and New Jersey with individuals ages 18 and older who are struggling with mental health concerns, and specializes in working with those looking to heal their relationships between their bodies and souls. Temimah is an adjunct professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, an advocate and public speaker concerning eating disorder awareness, and a Metro-New York consultant at Monte Nido. To learn more or to reach her, visit www.temimah.com.

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