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Parashat Matot-Masei

This week we read two parshiot that, depending on the year, are read together or separately. This year, together (or mechubarot).

In their content, we find again a clear reference to leadership styles. Three leaders, to be exact. We are talking about Aaron, Moshe and Joshua.

The parashah retell the precise moment in which our first High Priest dies: Aaron, whose death had already been announced to him (and us) some time before and who began, from that moment, to delegate his tasks to his successor, even when he could continue making them.

Of Aaron we are told in Pirkei Avot that he was a person who loved peace and pursued peace, who loved his fellow men and brought them closer to the Torah. He could have done only one of those and it would have been perfect. He would have been a good person, a good Cohen. But the task was specifically to make an effort and manage to comply with all the premises.

Let us remember the exact occasion in which the people asked him to build a golden calf: Aaron could have reacted with reprimands and executions in front of the people. Such an attitude could even have made him a leader of the stature of his brother Moshe, who was then absent receiving the tables of the law in Har Sinai.

Aaron knew how to take care of the shlom bait, the peace in the home. It is true that some accuse him of having been somewhat "soft" and condescending towards the people, but his role as rodef shalom—persecutor of peace surely made him see that it was not the time to confront a people of low morals dealing with the absence of their leader for 40 days; they could be confused as to who their real leader was, if only Aaron had imposed an authority that he neither had nor sought after.

On the other hand, we see Moshe and Joshua. Of them, as a common characteristic we can highlight, among other things, the will to not reject the tasks that were entrusted to them. Adonai asks Moshe to make a tedious record of the places through which the people of Israel passed in the desert and where they camped. It is a long list of 42 places, in a sort of roadmap. Moshe was the one in charge of doing this? The leader of leaders, who had received the 10 commandments and, according to our tradition, transcribed the Torah and gave it to the people, should he sit down to make a kind of travel log?

Yes. He had to receive our tradition and hand it over to us, as well as to sit down and write something apparently useless—or, at least, too simple for so great a leader. God asks him to do it. To not delegate it. And the most important thing, the most striking thing, is that at no time Moshe complains or suggests refusing it. He does it. It is part of what he should do and he does it.

We see the same attitude in Joshua. In the Midrash of Bemidbar, they wonder why he was chosen as the leader. And right there, the answer expresses that it was not only because he had done a better description of the land of Israel in the episode of the meraglim, the spies that Moshe had sent to explore the Promised Land; it was added that every time he had to be present, he was there. Silent, present and active. He was always by Moshe's side and at his orders and accompanied him. He was at the base of Mount Sinai when Moses went up. He was in the preparation of the mishkan. He was there. Learning and executing. Preparing for his own leadership.

Three examples of leaders that show us what is needed when taking a group to a place of common good: willingness to do the task; not reject it no matter how simple or low it seems; the search for shlom bait; and the character to be both far enough from situations, so that they do not condition them in their decisions, and close enough, so that the warmth of those they lead gives them the fair share of love to be able to be correctly directed, maintaining the due reverential respect for the experience and knowledge of those leaders.

Gustavo Geier


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