Leadership or Lottery?

29 May

This week’s thoughts are not about politics, so please read on even if you could care less about the current political circus in Israel.

The results are in:

With nearly two-thirds of Labor’s 103,498 eligible voters casting their ballots, Barak won 35.7% of the vote, Ayalon 30.7%, current Labor Chairman and Defense Minister Amir Peretz received 22.3% and MK Ophir Paz-Pines won 8%.

What does all of this mean?  Not a lot.  As a result of the fact that not any one of the candidates could get enough votes (40%), none of them are elected.  The current leader of the labor party is out of a job, that’s settled, but the country will have to suffer two more weeks of Amir Peretz before the runoff is held between Barak and Ayalon.

Frankly, I won’t be losing sleep.

I want to talk about the idea of “winning an election.” It’s a strange terminology that we use so very flippantly.  Just like someone might win a door prize, or win a lottery – so too, people running for public office look to “win the election.”

That’s what they call it – I beg to differ.

Who “wins”or “loses”an election?  Not the candidate, but the nation.  And we only find out if we have “won”sometime after the champagne victory parties and pandering public thank-yous have long been forgotten.  I mean, we don’t really know what we have for a new leader until a few months have passed – or the first national crisis befalls us.  Only then do we know if we are “winners”or “losers.”

And it came to pass on the day that Moses had made an end of setting up the tabernacle, and had anointed it and sanctified it, and all the furniture thereof, and the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them and sanctified them that the princes of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ houses, offered–these were the princes of the tribes, these are they that were over them that were numbered. And they brought their offering before the LORD, six covered wagons, and twelve oxen: a wagon for every two of the princes, and for each one an ox; and they presented them before the tabernacle.(Numbers 7:1-3)

In the past couple of weeks, the Torah has introduced us to the names and deeds of the leadership of the Am Yisrael as they traveled through the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. In Parashat Naso (last week), we were told that these leaders – referred to in the Torah as the nesi’ey Yisrael – נְשִׂיאֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – brought forth an unsolicited contribution to the new tabernacle, to the portable Temple.

After they had brought their standard sacrifices, they road in upon ox-drawn wagons.  So surprised was Moses to see this, that it seems form the Torah that he needed God’s guidance as to what he should do with this surprise contribution.  God instructs him to accept the unexpected presentation, and so he does.

What were the nesi’im thinking?

Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neriyah explained that these leaders had foresight.  While everyone was all wrapped up in the excitement of the moment, the completion of the building of the wondrous new national synagogue, these leaders were already looking ahead to the time when they would need to pick up and move on.  How would they move all this stuff?  The nesi’im had vision into the future, they had a plan, they had the real needs of the people in mind. “Wagons,” they realized, “the people need wagons….”

He suggests that this why they were called nesi’im – the Hebrew word that means that they carried  the people.  That’s right, as leaders, they carried the burden of the people upon their shoulders.  (This is where the Hebrew word for president – nasi –comes from…but that’s a whole other sore point around here….) They were nesi’im –  carriers, not n’suim  – those who are carried; they were bearing the burden, they were looking out for the very best interests of the people, not looking out for ways to “win” at the expense of the nation they “served.”  In other words, they were appointed because they were, beyond a shadow of a doubt, looking out for what was best for the people – making the people into the real winners!

Lately, elections in Israel have been about choosing winners from among losers, who then declare themselves the winners – making us the inevitable losers.

Restore our leaders as they used to be, and our advisors as at the beginning; remove from us sorrow and grief; and reign over us, You, O Lord alone, in kindness and mercy, and clear us in judgement.  Blessed are You, O Lord, king who loves righteousness and law. (weekday Amida)



One Response to “Leadership or Lottery?”

  1. Yoni Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 12:59 am #

    Great entry abba. i feel like we really are losers for having these guys run our country. but on the other hand were helpless and cant really make a difference.

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