Learning Torah
Learning TorahOrthodox Union NCSY

Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein

https://www.naaleh.com/webinar-registration-rebetzin-shira-smiles/ is signup page for webinar by Shira on berachos of the mornings.

Hashem has just informed Moshe Rabbenu that the time has come for him to leave this earth, for he would not lead Bnei Yisroel into the Promised Land. As it had been throughout his life, Moshe’s concern was for the people he had so faithfully led for all these years. Therefore, “Moshe spoke to Hashem saying, ‘My Hashem, Elokhei haruchot/God of the spirit of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly… and let [them] not be like sheep that have no shepherd.’ ”

Before we enter into a discussion of the leadership qualities Moshe thought were essential, Rabbi Reiss in Meirosh Tzurim points out that this is the only time Moshe speaks to Hashem, “Saying,” implying that Moshe’s request applied not only to his immediate successor, but to all leaders of Bnei Yisroel throughout the generations.

Hashem’s response echos Moshe’s address to Hashem; He tells Moshe to appoint Yehoshua bin Nun, a man asher ruach bo/in whom there is spirit.” Rashi explains that a person in whom there is spirit understands each person intrinsically, as an individual, in addition to leading the nation as a whole.

He who guards the fig tree shall eat its fruit.

The Medrash fills in some of the blanks that show how Yehoshua served Moshe faithfully for forty years, service that reveal the essence of Yehoshua that make him such a good leader of the nation. The Medrash tells us that Yehoshua would arise early every morning and arrange all the benches and spread the mats in the study hall so that the disciples could listen comfortably as Moshe expounded the Torah. Through this service, Yehoshua has earned the reward for this service. Then the Medrash continues enigmatically by citing a verse from Mishlei/Proverbs: “He who guards the fig tree shall eat its fruit.” This segue begs clarification, especially, as Rabbi Druck asks, the one who guards the fig tree is praised rather than the one who originally planted the tree.

The Manchester Rav, Rabbi Segal, explains how the guardian of the fig tree is an apt metaphor for a true Talmid Chacham who studies Torah diligently. The Torah is full of multiple meanings and nuances that slowly reveal its depth. One cannot understand Torah by trying to harvest all its wisdom at one, or even several, sittings. Each time one studies a passage, new insights are revealed, and the next time, additional knowledge can be harvested. This characteristic is similar to the fig tree. While the fruit on most fruit trees ripen fairly uniformly over a short period of time and can be harvested rather quickly, each fig on the fig tree ripens at its own individual pace over an extended period of time. To harvest the figs takes great, constant diligence and patience to pick each fruit only when it is ready. Therefore, adds Aish Tamid, the one who watches over the fig tree benefits more greatly than the one who initially planted it.

[Several years ago, on tour with the Eretz Yisroel Movement, we visited the Seven Species Farm in the Upper Galilee. We were privileged to pick small samples of figs and grapes for personal consumption. While it was early in the season, each of us managed to find one or two already fully ripened figs, while all the other figs were at various stages of ripeness, some just barely grown. The grapes, although only some were ripe, were at a more uniform stage. CKS]

Let us return to a discussion of leadership qualities. The Sifsei Chaim notes that one can lead as a ruler over others, or as a server of others. One who rules is serving his own ego, whether for honor or for wealth. He would not deal with the menial tasks of making sure the room had been cleaned and the seats are arranged. The one whose purpose is to lead others to their advantage rather than to his own, will search out the details, even the menial tasks, to make others comfortable. This was Yehoshua’s perspective.

Serving Moshe this closely for forty years added an additional dimension to Yehoshua. Yehoshua was able to observe the consummate leader, Moshe.

More than the verbal teaching of Moshe was the role model for being a servant of Hashem and the ideal leader of the people.

Man has tremendous potential, the spirit within him. This is what even a simple maidservant witnessed at the splitting of the Red Sea. She recognized Man’s potential as one of the supports of God’s “chariot.” She could point to the image of God stamped upon Man and declare, “This is my God ve'anvehu/I will glorify Him. Ani vaHu/I and He together,” in the characteristics that I resemble Him, are the support of the world, writes Rabbi Wolbe in Alei Shor. The simple maidservant saw the inherent greatness of Man, and we must strive to actualize that vision.

Who is the man who has the spirit within him, asks the Seforno? He is the chacham lev/wise of heart who has a burning desire in his heart for that wisdom. We must open up our hearts to receive Hashem’s words and gifts, or they cannot enter.

A Jewish leader is one who has built a relationship between himself and Hashem, studying the Torah to create and enhance the relationship. But a leader must also have a special relationship with others. He is not someone who does chesed from time to time, but one whose entire essence is chesed. That’s why the medrash of Yehoshua’s service in the beit medrash is so important, teaches us Birkat Mordechai, Rabbi Ezrachi. Yehoshua himself could occupy only one small bench for himself. But his focus was not on himself, but on the needs of others. Every day, without considering anything beneath his dignity, he prepared the benches and the rugs for everyone. Caring for others was his essence. Simil!!br0ken!!
Aishet Chayil is not a woman who does acts of chesed, but a woman whose entire life is chesed, a woman who acts as a role model for her children and raises them to bnos chayil. A leader must break down the barrier between himself and others so that he can see their needs and their potential.

What kind of shepherd does Moshe want?

Daas Schrage notes that there are two kinds of shepherds. Most shepherds take care of their own sheep because they want to fatten them up and make a personal profit from their sale. It is the rare shepherd who is aware of the needs and comfort of the individual sheep and works for the sheep as well as for himself. [Remember the medrash of Moshe tracking the thirsty lost sheep and carrying it back to the flock. CKS] A leader needs to understand the needs of the individual sheep, not just the needs of the entire flock.

When Moshe refers to Hashem as Elokhai haruchot, Moshe is referring to Hashem’s ability to fathom the depths of each individual. It is this perception that Moshe seeks in the future leaders of Bnei Yisroel, writes Rabbi Reiss. See not only the immediate needs of each person, but also recognize his potential greatness, his unique quality in bringing down God’s greatness to the world. Each person has his moment to shine, and every leader, not just the rabbi of the community, but also the parent and teacher, are charged with finding the special note each individual can contribute to the symphony playing out in the world of Hashem’s creation.

A leader must have the ability to tolerate and appreciate the differences among us. He must understand that we all have the same goal of serving Hashem. Each of us has a unique path to that end, and we, not just our leaders, should celebrate the multiplicity of approaches rather than denigrate customs and pathways different from our own, teaches us Rabbi Wolbe. In this way, we can hope to hasten the arrival of Moshiach.

The Ohel Moshe, Rav Eliezer Meir Bloch, brings us the third element necessary for effective leadership, citing the Saba of Novharodek, Rav Bloch tells us:

A good leader must have control over the spirit within himself.

His self discipline must serve as a model to others, for everyone notices every step, especially every misstep that a leader takes, adds Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz. Our leaders are not like Aristotle who, when confronted doing something terribly wrong, replied that he was not the famous Aristotle in his private life.

The guardian of the fig tree must notice every subtle change, both in himself and in others so he can make a timely correction before it’s too late. One must go out before the nation with love and constantly check on the “figs” he is responsible for.

People sense how others, especially their leaders, feel about them and what their leaders value.

Yehoshua loved the Torah so much that he was the first one in the beit medrash each morning, preparing the space, and the last one out at night, not allowing himself to miss even one moment of Torah study. But this love extended to all the other people as well, as he treated each with love and respect. Hashem recognized Yehoshua’s modesty in this regard, and He told Moshe to “take to himself” Yehoshua and appoint him as the leader to follow you. Take Yehoshua with gentle, convincing words. Tell him how fortunate he is to be chosen to lead Hashem’s children. For it is his love of Torah and his love of each of his fellow Jews that makes him Hashem’s choice.

We have to work on growing the love for one another, of acting with kindness to each other, of smiling at each other (even through our Covid 19 masked faces), not just participating in occasional acts of chesed. Rabbi Friefeld urges us to look at people with a positive eye, for by doing so, we also build up the other’s self esteem. Focus on his pure Jewish soul rather on our differences and possible lapses. Rebbetzin Heller distills our treatment of our fellow to three points: always treat him with respect, always speak well of him to others, and be concerned with his welfare.

As we approach the Three Weeks and the destruction of the Beit Hamikdosh, we must train ourselves, not just our leaders, in these values. If we can transform the baseless hatred that caused the destruction of our second Beit Hamikdosh to baseless love for our fellow Jew, we will hasten our final redemption with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, may it be speedily in our time.

Rabbanit Shira Smiles is a sought-after international lecturer, popular seminary teacher and experienced curriculum developer. A well-respected former Los Angeles teacher, she now lives in Israel, where she teaches at Darchei Bina Seminary and leads a number of women's study groups. Shira also trains Torah teachers in special workshops all over the world.