Thursday, June 07, 2007

Jewish Leadership in the Parashat HaShavua

This week's Parashat Hashavua, (weekly Torah Portion) "Shlach", is about the 12 spies sent by Moshe to spy out the land of Israel and their report back to the Jewish people.

As we all know, 10 came back with awful, horrendous reports of why not to move there; security issues, a land that devours it's inhabitants, fear of the locals, etc. Joshua and Calev had a completely different report -- a land flowing with milk and honey. (Side note, tonight (Thursday) at midnight, the IDF is again allowing access to Kever Yehoshua and Calev)

So much of this week is reflected in this week's Parasha.

The 40th anniversary of Israel's amazing liberation of Yehuda, Shomron, Gaza, the Golan, the Sinai...and Yerushalayim.

The world was in awe of us at the time.

In their 1967 report on Israel and the war, TIME magazine's coverage would make their current editors cringe. I suggest you take a few minutes to read it to remind yourself how we were viewed by the world at the time. Their final paragraph sums it up amazingly:
In the last analysis, though, it was the Israeli military virtues of superb tactics and timing, its professionalism in the martial arts, that turned an Arab defeat into a classic rout likely to be studied with admiration at war colleges the world over. Beyond those tangibles there looms the dedication of the Jews, forged in thousands of years of dispersions and persecutions, their inviolable determination to ensure modern Israel's survival as a nation. "Everybody fought for something that is a combination of love, belief and country," said Moshe Dayan at week's end. "If I may say so, we felt we were fighting to prevent the fall of the Third Temple." (hat-tip to SoccerDad for the TIME articles)

How times have changed.

In TIME's retrospection on the past 40 years, their main point is "the plight of the Palestinians"...though such a term doesn't even appear in the the original 1967 report. From a war of survival, revisionists (abroad and even in Israel) have rewritten history so that Israel was the aggressor.

And yet, let's return to the Parasha.

The Zohar asks a curious question; The 12 spies were leaders of Israel! How could they have fallen so easily to report back such awful reports about the land? The leaders were Talmidei Chachamim...leaders of the tribes of Israel....they all saw our liberation from Egypt and Matan-Torah, the revelation of the Torah from G-d at Mount Sinai! What happened?!

The answer from the Zohar is rather distressing.

The spies realized that if the children of Israel would enter the land on schedule, 2 years after their deliverance from Egypt, then Jewish history would unfold as follows:

The Jews would enter and conquer the land, anoint a king and build the Beit HaMikdash, the Jewish Temple -- which would remain forever and the "days of Mashiach" would essentially start immediately.

There would be none of the tragedies that would befall the Jewish people -- those from the 9th of Av (the day the 10 spies gave their bad report).

The Jewish Temples would not be destroyed. There would be no exiles. Judaism and history as we know it would have been radically different...and approaching perfection.

So what happened?

Realizing all of this, the 10 spies feared their current status of leadership would disappear -- there would be a king over Israel.

The Zohar writes that to retain their leadership...even if meant that the Jews would stay in the desert for another 38 years, the spies provided a negative report about the land.

All the tragedies that befell us; 38 more years in the desert, destruction of the Temples, Exiles, Bloodshed...all so that those 10 spies could retain their leadership.

Now that's a frightening point.

What is our leadership like today?

Krum as a Bagel writes about the awful political backstabbing in the WJC, as Rabbi Israel Singer was backstabbed and thrown out over personal advancement and backroom politics.
"I expected a Jewish organization to be about more than politics and backroom dealing but it seems they are no different than any other group of career politicians who make and break alliances and bedfellows as it suits their political needs."

Israel's political replete with corruption, placing their own personal and political agendas before that of the country.

Askanim; political hacks infest religious political parties and organizations for a myriad of reasons that do much damage to some of the loftier goals of those parties and organizations. (I hope to write more about this in the coming weeks, showing why askanim are giving Chareidi/Ultra Orthodox Judaism a bad name)

And of course, religious leadership which covered up wrongdoings of their own colleagues.

We shouldn't really be surprised; ma'aseh avot -- siman libanim. The actions of the fathers illuminate/dictate the actions of their children.

Only 2 out of 12 did the right thing.

We need to find them and elevate them above the rest.

May we find them speedily!

Shabbat Shalom.


PS: The end of the Parasha demonstrates what Pinchas thought of awful leaders as well. Discussing that however, is grounds for incarceration.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


balabusta in blue jeans said...

It's also possible (for me, anyway), to see the Zohar's response as a form of propaganda for bad Jewish leadership. How?

The Zohar apparently sees an effort to prevent the kingship as a bad thing--but why? God does not tell the people to appoint a king. God gives no indication that appointing a king is to be considered. The people will ultimately do that themselves, and over the strong warnings of a level-headed prophet. The kings themselves will invite war, mess up, and generally be a bane to the people until tribal and religious leadership is restored by tragedy.

And yet, says the Zohar, we can't interpret the reluctance of the spies to invite such a fate to anything but selfishness.

The spies didn't do the right thing, but if they were in fact looking ahead to the kingship, perhaps they saw a less perfect future than the Zohar projects, and made a choice in favor of a less autocratic community structure.

What are our leaders like today? They act as though they were appointed by God to be kings over Israel, they insist that things will be perfect if we just give them our money on Super Sunday, and our daughters to type their annual reports. Would they be perfect if we just had more faith? Dubious.

Avromi said...

Loshon Hara on Eretz Yisroel

Jerry said...

Actually, the description of Eretz Yisrael as ארץ זבת חלב ודבש was given by the bad guys...

rabbi without a cause said...

Good job, Jameel. A few more homiletics lessons and we'll give you a pulpit...

Avromi said...

Jerry - it was also repeated by yehoshua and calev afterwards

jerry said...

sorry, i meant "also".

although it's interesting that in this coming week's parsha it's also the bad guys who describe Israel (and Egypt) as such...

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