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Preview for June: D’var Torah: Summer Torah portions teach lessons about leadership
May 11th, 2011
The holiday of Shavuot comes and brings with it an intense connection between God, Moses, the Jewish people, and our beloved Torah. It is a time of sweetness, of learning, and of community connection.
Those who then take a break from Torah reading over the summer may be surprised to know just how much conversation the Torah contains about leadership, politics and the difficulties inherent in building community.
In the Torah readings during the summer months, most from the book of Numbers, Moses and the children of Israel are a year past the revelation at Sinai — the second year after their exodus from Egypt.
Though they had experienced intense connection with Moses during the moments of the revelation at Sinai, their affinity for their leader, as well as their interest in a desert experience has waned. It is not going well.
The wandering has been difficult for the children of Israel and has caused them to be extraordinarily grumpy and agitated. Their contentiousness, grumblings, endless needs and demands have become too much for Moses. They want garlic, cucumbers, onions, fish, and meat.
Moses cries out to God, saying, “I cannot carry all this people by myself, for it is too much for me” (Numbers 11:14). He asks God to kill him to relieve him of his responsibility. Instead, God asks Moses to gather 70 elders to act as a governing entity to share the burdens of the people (Numbers 11:16-17).
Seventy is a significant number in Jewish tradition. It is said to represent all of the nations of the world. It represents a variety of opinions that are included in a complete discussion. It is also said to be the number of children of Israel that went down originally to sojourn in Egypt.
This group of 70 elders would serve to share the governance of the people with Moses, helping to make decisions, to delegate authority, to listen to grievances and make the lives of the people better. In later years, this group of 70 would be the model for the Sanhedrin, the governing body of the Jewish people during the first centuries of the Common Era.
The full article will be printed in the June issue.