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      Judaism: True Leadership: For Such a Time as This

      Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 12:00 PM
      Purim, Shabbat Zachor and Parshat Tetsaveh: Esther and Aaron teach us about leadership.


      The cloak of confusion has overtaken much of this world. A pallor of relativism and a lack of discernment has covered the eyes of most of the world. It is that “covering darkness” that allows evil to grow unhampered.
      Iran can continue to plan and prepare nuclear genocide, because many in the world prefer to accommodate evil intentions rather than confront them.
      Discernment has been whitewashed and good is diluted by evil.
       It is that confusion and self serving cynicism that explains the decisions of Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding the formation of the new government. This is in fact the great danger that the Torah warns us about in the reading of Shabbat Zachor, read this Shabbat.

      "Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way as ye came forth out of Egypt; how he happened upon thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee,all that were enfeebled in thy rear, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not G-d." Deuteronomy 25:17-18

      The essence of Amalek was to instill fear of indiscriminate violence in the very same manner of modern day suicide bombers who try to strike anywhere or at anytime. The ultimate apostasy is the Amalek belief system that life is random, that things just happen without rhyme or reason. Their battle is not just against the Jewish people but rather against the concept of a G-d who is sovereign and is connected to our daily lives.
      That is the reason that we read; "HaShem will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." (Exodus 17;14-16). They are the ultimate enemy.

      Actually the reality of the story of Purim is in fact the reality of our world. The name of the scroll of Esther, Megillat Esther, hints at this with the word play based on the words Gilui HaHester, "revealing that which is hidden." Much is hidden in the scroll of Esther. The newly crowned queen, Esther, hides the roots of her faith and her people. Mordechai sits undetected at the gates of Shushan and overhears the plot against King Ahashverosh. Haman the descendant of Amalek throws lots to determine the fate of the Jewish people in a continuation of his ancestral passion to introduce randomness into history.

      The name of G-d does not appear once in the whole text of the scroll of Esther yet it is clear He stands behind the events of the narrative. That is the reality of modern history. G-d seems hidden until one truly opens one's eyes to see Him in each step of history.

      The only way to break through all these veils and layers of confusion is to adopt the lessons of personal or corporate leadership taught in this week's Torah portion,  Tetzaveh (ibid 27:20-30:10) , where we read the detailed description of the priestly garments. Two of these articles of clothing were the stones attached to the shoulders of the Kohen and those that were embedded in his Hoshen- Breastpate.

      "And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, to be stones of memorial for the children of Israel ; and Aaron shall bear their names before HaShem upon his two shoulders for a memorial. ( ibid 28:12)

      "And the stones ( of the breastplate) shall be according to the names of the children of Israel , twelve, according to their names; like the engravings of a signet, every one according to his name, they shall be for the twelve tribes. ( ibid 28:21)

      The stones on the shoulders of the Ephod and the stones on the Breastplate both symbolized the twelve tribes. The obvious question arises as to why the repetition of the symbols. Did each stone grouping carry a different message?

      Regarding one we read "...and Aaron shall bear their names before HaShem upon his two shoulders for a memorial . (ibid 28:12)

      Regarding the breastplate we read; "And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before HaShem continually.( ibid 28:29)

      In one case the Priest, representative of Jewish leadership , carries the burden of his people on his shoulders .In the other the leader carries them over his heart. The physical needs and concerns of a people must be carried and supported on the shoulders of true leadership.

      The fears, hopes and hearts of the people cannot be ignored by the heart of a true leader. Furthermore, on the breastplate covering the heart every individual stone was distinct and unique. When connecting to the things of the heart, it is important not to group together and to generalize otherwise the cry of the individual heart is lost in the clamor of the multitude.

      Those two concerns empower individuals and leaders to reach beyond the veils of fear and darkness. It is those two ideals that return the power of discernment. This must be the purpose of every leader .It is the challenge given to every individual as well.

      That message resonates in Mordechai’s declaration to Esther, "Do not imagine to yourself that you will escape in the king's house from among all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and rescue will arise for the Jews from elsewhere, and you and your father's household will perish; and who knows whether you have attained the kingdom for such a time like this ?"( Esther 4:13-14) .

      Queen Esther had to make a decision of leadership. She was safely ensconced in the royal house yet she carried the burden of her people on her shoulders and just as importantly over her heart. She then stood forward and grabbed the reigns of destiny. That option remains available to all who want to become part of destiny. Only then will the veil imposed by Amalek be truly erased.