Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Transition Leaders, Moses and Samuel

There's much in the Bible about human relations, politics, leadership, crises and transition.  It's the story of the Jewish People, starting with G-d's creating the world and ends in chaotic political fighting.  There's a final message of Redemption if we would just get our act together.

Jewish Tradition has us read the first five books, the Torah, every year.  It's divided in weekly portions,   פרשת שבוע , Parshat Shavua.  That ends as the nascent Jewish People, still a tribal federation, are about to enter the HolyLand, just after their leader, Moshe, Moses dies.

Moshe's time as leader was never easy.  He had trouble getting the respect from the Jewish People and the necessary results from the Egyptian Pharaoh, who enslaved them.  G-d chose him to be leader when he was hiding out in Midian with his in-laws.  As we all know, eventually, with the help of the Almighty and Moshe's brother Aaron, Moshe led the Jewish People out of Egypt and trekked with them for forty years while the old slave generation died out and a new Jewish People reached maturity for the next stage.

Maybe I made it sound too simple, too cut and dried.  If you read the beginning of the second book of the Bible, Shemot, Exodus, which are the parshot of this season, you'll read of Moshe's struggles and complaints to G-d.  They remind me of a later transition leader for the Jewish People, Shmuel (Samuel.)

Moshe and Shmuel have a lot in common.  They both spent minimal time with their biological families. After weaning, most probably at the age of three or five, they were sent away for "leadership training."  Moshe was sent to his adoptive mother, Bitya, daughter of Pharaoh, who had rescued him from certain death, and Shmuel went to Shiloh to live with Eli HaCohen (the High Priest,) to learn the ways of G-d.

There's nothing in the Bible saying that Moshe had any contact with his biological family when he was growing up, but Shmuel did.  Moshe's training, being raised in Pharaoh's palace made his connections to the Jewish People very difficult.  He didn't really know the mentality, nor the slang and accent.

*Just a short note about academic training/education for those who plan aliyah.  You're best off studying in Israel, in an Israeli university.  That way you have the language and relevant training.  An Israeli BA/S is three years, so if you spend a year first perfecting/preparing your Hebrew, you still get out at the same time.  Even better, the Israeli BA/S is more specialized in a major, more like an American Masters degree.  Tuition is a fraction of the price, and there are special scholarships/subsidies for new immigrants.  Train for life in Israel, not wherever you've been living.  Look back in the Bible for the examples of Moshe and Shmuel.  At Moshe's time, there may not have been a Jewish leadership university, so he did one degree at Pharaoh's and the second at Yitro's (his father-in-law in Midian.)  Israel's universities are world class.

Shmuel had a much easier time, since he was accepted as Eli HaCohen's successor, not that it was clear sailing all the way.  He was very offended when the Jewish People began demanding "a king like all other nations."  Shmuel didn't take that well, and I consider G-d's reply, that it's not against him, but against Him, as one of the most moving lines in the Bible.

Shmuel had trouble giving up the reigns and was heavily involved mentoring Shaul HaMelech, King Saul, the first king.  Shaul's reign as king wasn't successful, probably because a king who needs that much help isn't much of a leader.  Shmuel leaves the scene after David takes over as King of the Jewish People.  David was a natural leader, directly communicating with G-d, and didn't need Shmuel.

Moshe, on the other hand, felt less threatened by the idea that he would be succeeded by Yehoshua (Joshua,) rewarding Eldad and Medad rather than punishing them for announcing it.

I've always been fascinated by politics and observing the dynamics of leadership manipulations.  It just saddens and frightens me that we don't have an real leadership today here in Israel.  What awaits us?


Anonymous said...

...except that god concurred with shmuel.

Batya said...

So, it was a learning time for G-d, too. Humans have free will. G-d doesn't control us, prevent our mistakes.

YC said...

Nice post!!
re Shmuel leaves the scene after David takes over as King
Shmuel dies when David is on the run before he is king
As an aside Saul may have used Shmuel's death as a spark for reform namely cleaning the Land of Ov, Yidoni, witches....

re David spoke directly to God
Seems David used urim vtumum and navi (Gad, Natan). Perhaps this is contrast to hgam Saul banivim

Batya said...

Actually David was anointed while Saul was still king.

Anonymous said...

So, it was a learning time for G-d, too.
not sure what you mean by this.

Batya said...

For sure. Don't forget the flood, when G-d erased the past and started human life anew.