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Why Was Moses Ignored? #441

07/12/2016 07:09:23 PM


Why Was Moses Ignored? #441

There is an inspiring quote which I first heard in 1972 while watching the funeral of President Harry S. Truman, which has helped guide me along my life's journey.
It reads: "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."
The quote has traditionally been attributed to the late president, but in fact it was first inked by British author Charles Edward Montague who in his 1922 book Disenchantment wrote:
"There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it."
The quote always spoken to me about the importance of embracing the collective power of a group.
People working together can reverse injustice. Communities can rally resources to feed the hungry, or rebuild disaster stricken communities. A group can often accomplish what single individuals cannot.
Through media such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube among others, these days, young people are collectively expressing their outrage at the entire political process, and this has become a major factor in current presidential election campaign. And it is for the good.
President Truman often articulated a mistrust of individuals, while maintaining a profound faith in the capacity of groups to ultimately act righteously. He wrote:
"The human animal cannot be trusted for anything good except en masse. The combined thought and action of the whole people of any race, creed or nationality, will always point in the right direction."
There are indeed many cases in history where humans en masse have conspired to perform evil. The history of the Jewish people is lined with such atrocities.
In spite of this, we as Jews maintain that Klal Yisrael, "The whole of Israel" working in partnership with God and the rest of humanity, can eventually heal this broken world.  
And I believe no portion of the Torah typifies this more than this week's Parashah, Tetzaveh ("You shall further instruct the Israelites"). In this week's Parashah, God appoints the descendants of one person to lead the Jewish people into the future.
You'd think that person would be Moses, but in fact, nowhere in this entire Torah portion is Moses' name is even mentioned.
How puzzling.
After all, it was Moses who stood on Mount Sinai and delivered the Ten Commandments.
It was Moses who God plucked out of obscurity at the burning bush to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
It was Moses who at great personal risk went toe-to-toe with Pharaoh.
It was Moses, who courageously led the Israelites across the sea to liberty and safety.
Yet, God chose Aaron and his family to serve as Judaism's eternal priests (Kohanim).
For centuries, Jewish scholars have pondered this decision. After all, traditional tells us that Moses was God's favorite. Yet, when you think of it, God's decision to bypass Moses is a divinely brilliant one. 

By omitting the name of Moses within a Parashah which focuses on Jewish continuity, the Torah teaches us that we may not worship a fellow human being.
We can draw cartoons of Moses and no one becomes upset. We can say Holy Moses, and the world doesn't come to an end. There is no Moses cult.
More importantly, Judaism teaches us that the destiny of the Jewish does not rest on the shoulders of one person. History has taught us that power corrupts, and that too much status isolates a leader from the people.
Better to spread the leadership so that the people, and its collective journey may continue.
So this week, when it comes time for God to designate a family line to maintain our holy sites, and to ensure that rituals are sustained, God chooses Aaron over Moses.  
And the results speak for themselves. For thousands of years, Judaism has rested, evolved and ultimately thrived upon the teachings, arguments, observations and insights of rabbis, scholars, philosophers, parents, grandparents, pundits, taxi drivers, street sweepers, believers, non-believers and those who just aren't sure.
And that's what makes us strong.
As painful as God's decision may have been to Moses, he understood then, and as we appreciate now, that a leader's mission must be first and foremost to uplift and maintain an institution and its principles.
Leaders must make difficult decisions. The buck stops with them. There is often heat in the kitchen. But Judaism takes great care to ensure that in spite of their dedication and contribution, that no one person's imprint ever dominates our faith, our progress, and our mission to perfect a broken world.
In the end, success in this world does not rest upon one human being, or their individual thirst for credit and affirmation. Montague and Truman articulated the principle which Jews have maintained for thousands of years.
Each us exists as a sacred part within a Mamlechet Kohanim, a kingdom of priests.  Each of us can make a difference. Each of us is linked to the other.  
And within our collective journey to heal this broken world, no person may receive the credit above another.
Indeed, as the Torah reminds us this week, we are all in this together,
Shabbat Shalom, v'kol tuv (with all goodness)
Rabbi Irwin Huberman

Sat, August 8 2020 18 Av 5780