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Imposing Leadership

Tuesday, 26 June, 2012 - 1:30 pm

The tech wars between AppleGoogleMicrosoftFacebookMotorollaSamsungEtc have only intensified in recent years. From the International Consumer Electronics Show, to corporate boardrooms; from Superbowl ads to tweets; from courtrooms to the court of public opinion - the titans of tech are slugging it out.

Who will be the last man standing?

Google will promote its open developer environment. Apple will tout its simple and clean user-friendly platform. Facebook will declare itself as your true friend. And Microsoft will deny you can survive without it.

Remember the days of AOL? We might assume these giants are here to stay, but what might make them vulnerable?

***

In this week’s Parsha of Chukat, we are informed of Moshe’s shortcoming. Instead of speaking to a rock to miraculously procure water, he hit the rock and - miraculously - an abundant flow of water burst forth.

In response to this failure G-d told Moshe, “Since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly to the Land which I have given them.”

We know humans are prone to moods and overreaction. But why would G-d enforce such severe punishment for an innocuous mistake?

Rashi - citing the Midrash - explains the gravity of his error:

“Had you spoken to the rock and it had given forth water, I would have been sanctified in the eyes of the congregation. They would have said, "If this rock, which neither speaks nor hears, and does not require sustenance, fulfills the word of G-d, how much more should we!”

True, the impact would have been grander if the Jews had witnessed a miracle resulting from Moshe speaking to the rock. But was hitting the rock not sufficient a miracle to provide the same lesson?! And if G-d was truly angry with Moshe, why allow the rock to supernaturally produce water?!

***

The Chassidic Master Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev provides a deeper perspective. Striking the rock, he explains, represents force and discipline. Speaking to the rock represents willingness and inspiration.

If a leader's influence on the community is achieved through harsh words of rebuke, then his relationship with the environment is likewise: he will have to forcefully impose his will on it to get it to serve his people's needs and their mission in life.  If, however, he influences his community by lovingly uplifting them to a higher place so that they, on their own, will desire to improve themselves, the world will likewise willingly yield its resources to the furtherance of his goals.

Both options are acceptable. Therefore, in either case, the rock would generate water. And both would cause the Jewish nation to follow his lead.

The final consequence, however, would look quite different. For the Jews to truly embrace their mandate, they needed a leader that would motivate, not dictate.

As they neared the Holy Land, G-d determined that the awesome - and unparalleled - leadership of Moshe was becoming a relic of the past. It was time for a new technology. It was time for Jews to move forward on their own accord, with hearts brimming with self-achieved enthusiasm. 

***

Numerous corporations are vying for market share. Some will succeed. Others will fade. Newcomers will emerge.

Only one thing is certain: the technology and movement that captures the imagination of the masses will be here to stay.

***

In our own lives we are also leaders with choices. We can compel others to pursue the values we hold dear, with momentary success.  Or we can be a living - and enduring - inspiration.

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