The Parsha in Chesed – Parshat Ki Tissa

A baseball player teaches us what it means to be a leader.

Rabbi Avrohom Leventhal ,

Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai

The Window of Opportunity

Growing up, I was an avid baseball fan. The Baltimore Orioles were my team. My oldest child was born just hours after my wife and I attended a game. We are still uncertain if the disappointment of yet another Oriole loss or the kosher hot dog stand fare induced the labor.

There is one player, however, and not even an Oriole, that gained my deepest respect.
Nolan Ryan. To me he was a true celebrity.

Nolan Ryan would remain after a game and sign autographs for all those waiting. Long after the bus took his teammates to the hotel, Nolan was there talking to the fans. A taxi driver remarked that he once drove Nolan Ryan to the hotel over three hours after the game ended.

When asked why he was so dedicated to the fans, Nolan replied, “because it’s the fans who make me who I am. Without them, I’m just another guy in a uniform.”

In Pirkei Avot (4th Chapter) we learn: Who is an honored person? One who honors others. For one to be truly important, they must see the value of others.

Too often when people find fame or fortune, they forget their humble beginnings. Even worse are those climbers who forget or neglect the very people who helped them achieve their status.

Parshat Ki Tisa details the story of the sin of the Golden Calf. Hashem (G-d) tells Moshe (Moses) that such betrayal deserves the destruction of the nation. In his plea to Hashem to forgive the Jewish people, Moshe gives Hashem an ultimatum:

וְעַתָּ֖ה אִם־תִּשָּׂ֣א חַטָּאתָ֑ם וְאִם־אַ֕יִן מְחֵ֣נִי נָ֔א מִֽסִּפְרְךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֥ר כָּתָֽבְתָּ

“Now if You will forgive their sin (then good) and if not, erase me from the Book which You have written.” (Exodus 32:32)

Hashem told Moshe that he would be the new beginning of the Jewish nation. The status of the avot (forefathers) would be transferred to him.

For Moshe, it wasn’t about “me.” His essence was responsibility for his people. He was chosen by Hashem to lead this nation, in any circumstance. If there would be no more people, then there would be no more Moshe.

As much as the nation is influenced by its leader, that leader is the only the sum of his people.

Rather than being incensed by what could be considered insolence on the part of Moshe, Hashem brought him closer than ever, spoke to him “one to one” and revealed to him what no other person would ever see.

Moshe’s concern was for his people, not just his family and friends, not just the righteous, but rather for every person despite who he was or what she might have done.

His caring for others did not diminish his stature. It solidified him as the greatest leader in our history.

That is the essence of a true leader or influencer. It’s not who I am or what I know.

It’s about what I do. Perhaps even for those whom I have never met.

Imagine, if you will, that you are surrounded by a glass window. Glass is clear allowing you to see out and others to see in.

Take that same glass and coat one side in silver or glitter. It now becomes a mirror. When looking in a mirror, one only sees themselves.

Fortunate are those who attain wealth or fame and don’t let that silver or glitter coat their window.

“Unhappiness comes from mirrors. Happiness comes from windows.”

I know someone who is climbing the ladder of social media fame. Their “followers” and fan base steadily increase. Yet, as busy as they are, they acknowledge or reply to every comment or post.

They recently posted the following on their page:

“I decided that I’m getting tired of taking selfies all the time and posting them here.
Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! It’s what my life has become. And I don’t like it.
I may be a performer and, hence, an attention seeker, but I don’t want to keep up this self-absorbed social media parade any longer. It just doesn’t feel right to who I am.
Where’s the fine balance between sharing one’s Gd-given talents and shoving one’s presence down others’ throats?”

These are words of an influencer who won’t let the glitter of notoriety shade their commitment to remain true to themselves.

May all celebrities learn by their example.

Today, we are able to reach massive numbers of people through social media and countless applications. Someone formally unknown can achieve celebrity status literally overnight.

Thanks to these tools, the potential to influence and impact is greater than ever before.

It’s our choice to decide how to use these amazing tools of communication.

Will they be like glass, allowing us to be seen while still seeing others? Or, will it become a silver or glitter coated mirror which only allows us to see ourselves?

True leaders and influencers understand that is not about “who I am” but rather what we are.

Our care and concern for others create a legacy far beyond those “15 minutes of fame.”

Shabbat Shalom