B’ha’alotcha: The heaviness of leadership

two roads divergedWe hear a lot about leadership these days – who’s got it, who doesn’t, who’s prepared for it, and who isn’t.  We talk a lot about our country’s leadership – what does it mean to be prepared to lead?

It only takes one or two episodes of West Wing to realize that those who lead are constantly and consistently  under pressure to answer their peoples’ needs.  It gets hard.

“Moses heard the people weeping, ….each person at the entrance of his tent. Adonai was very angry, and Moses was distressed.  And Moses said to Adonai, ‘Why have You dealt ill with Your servant, and why have I not enjoyed Your favor, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me?  Did I conceive all this people, did I bear them, that You should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries an infant, I cannot carry all this people myself, for it is too much for me….If You would deal with me thus, kill me rather, I beg You, and let me see no more of my wretchedness.”  (Num 11:10-15)

Moses’ meltdown.  You have to feel for the poor guy.   This people are pretty tough to lead, and he just had gotten to a breaking point. The whining. The complaining. The distrust and betrayal.  Enough!

The Hebrew in the verse above, “it is too much for me” is k-v-d, heavy, the same word used for Pharoah’s heart; it was k-v-d, hardened.  So here are two versions of a leader, with the same word used for their leadership in a crisis.  Pharoah’s hardened/heavy, k-v-d heart takes his people to destruction, because his focus was all about him.  Moses’ heavy/k-v-d heart takes him a different direction.  At God’s suggestion, Moses gathers the elders and relies on them to  take care of the people’s needs.  One path led to people dying violently in the wilderness,  the other to a people carrying on through the wilderness to a new land.

What does it mean to be a responsible leader for a people?   How do you handle the k-v-d-ness?  You can either be hardheaded/hardhearted like Pharaoh, thinking only of yourself, whose pride and selfishness outweighs the suffering of his people under endless plagues, or you can broaden the base and lighten the load, thinking of the people first and figure out how to help them.  Granted, Moses had  his meltdown, but he wasn’t alone – God was with him, and God told him to rely on his trusted advisors, and turn his attention to getting his people cared for.

What does it mean to be responsible for a people?  It means your role as leader is not about you, it’s about the people you lead.  It means you haven’t chosen hubris over your heart.  It means after a meltdown between you and your “top advisor”, you regroup and choose the people.


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