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ב"ה

Peaceful Transfer of Power

Friday, 25 September, 2020 - 12:17 pm

Much has been discussed lately about the concept of the peaceful transfer of power in the United States, particularly as it pertains to the Executive Branch of government. Due to many factors and actors – including an unprecedented worldwide pandemic – things we have taken for granted for years are suddenly being scrutinized like never before.

So, does the Torah say anything about the peaceful transfer of power?

As you know, I do not engage in political statements. This is no different. I will not weigh in on the current debate.

I will, however, suggest that the Torah offers unbelievable insights and lessons in all arenas.

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In this week’s parsha Haazinu we read about the parting “song” that Moshe sang to the Jewish people. Part song, part prophecy, part mission statement and part rebuke – it is a critical read. Upon concluding the song, the Torah states, “And Moshe came and spoke all the words of this song into the ears of the people he and Hoshea the son of Nun.”

This was Moshe’s last day on earth. And, he shared it with his successor, Yehoshua. Moshe delivered remarks to the people. And then, in Moshe’s presence, Yehoshua delivered remarks to the people.

This joint address was an exception to Moshe’s leadership. Here, he shared his position with Yehoshua.

Moshe had already appointed Yehoshua to succeed him. There was no debate or ambiguity. Why was this one-day joint administration necessary?

Rashi, in addressing why Yehoshua’s name is altered to Hoshea, indirectly answers this question. Yehoshua’s original name was Hoshea. The Hebrew letter Yud was added to his name and he became Yehoshua, the quintessential student of Moshe, the most loyal follower. He was Moshe’s right-hand man.

The Torah reverts to his original name to teach us that all the greatness had not gotten to his head. He remained the humble Hoshea, the same earnest guy as he was before his position of influence.

In fact, it was due to Yehoshua’s unwavering and unassuming devotion to his teacher that many might wonder whether he had it in him to lead the nation. Was he just too meek?

That’s why Moshe split the last day of his life with Yehoshua. To demonstrate that Yehoshua has what it takes to lead. That Yehoshua is, in fact, the epitome of a leader. Because the epitome of leadership is not power. It is devotion. Just as Yehoshua was utterly dedicated to Moshe, so would he be absolutely and selflessly committed to the Jewish people.

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We stand in the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The past year has, in many ways, been a humbling year. We might ask ourselves, do we have the power to persevere, to plow ahead?

The Jewish New Year offers us some answers. Unlike the secular new year, celebrated with fireworks and partying, the Jewish year begins with solemn (yet joyous) days. It reminds us that humility is real strength; that commitment is more important than accomplishments; that there is a Higher Being that controls this world and our lives.

It is this sensitivity to our calling and purpose that allows us to reap the blessings of Rosh Hashanah and the tender bond of Yom Kippur. This infuses our year with meaning, joy and a bright future.

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Congress has passed several laws ensuring the peaceful transfer of power, beginning in 1963. 

However, the real problem is the premise of this concept in the first place. If leadership is all about power, then there is ample need for laws to secure a peaceful transition.

If, however, leadership is about selfless commitment and service – then the real need is recognizing that the humblest amongst us may have the most to offer.

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I am a leader. I lead my home and I lead my life. I lead my family and I lead my social circles.

And, I have a choice.

If I am seeking power to implement my leadership, I will need lots of safeguards. It might take an Act of Congress to keep me in line.

But, if I am seeking to selflessly give, to quietly share, to steadfastly serve – my leadership will always be peaceful.

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