web analytics
June 29, 2015 / 12 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Parshat Shemot

General George Marshall

General George Marshall

General George Marshall became the U.S. Army’s Chief of Staff in 1939. With a keen understanding that the United States would eventually be drawn into the war that had just erupted in Europe, he set out to rebuild and modernize the army. This was no easy task. Besides the normal difficulties inherent in such an undertaking, Marshall had to do it against the wishes of many influential isolationists. Even President Roosevelt was reluctant to upset the country’s isolationists for fear that battling them would undermine his New Deal.

In addition to building up the ranks of the enlisted men, modernizing weaponry, and updating doctrine, Marshall cleaned house in the upper levels of leadership. In October 1939, a mere month after being sworn in to office, Marshall lamented to a journalist that, “The present general officers of the line are for the most part too old to command troops in battle under the terrific pressure of modern war. Most of them have their minds set in outmoded patterns, and can’t change to meet the new conditions they may face if we become involved in the war that’s started in Europe” (as quoted in The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today by Thomas E. Ricks, 2012, pp. 32-33).

To pave the way for a new generation of leaders, by the fall of 1941 Marshall had cashiered 31 colonels, 117 lieutenant colonels, 31 majors and 36 captains. By the time America entered the war, Marshall had forced into retirement some 600 officers (p. 33). The leaders who replaced them were put through high-pressure ordeals to ascertain their readiness for combat command. Marshall explained his plan as follows. “I was going to put these men to the severest tests which I can devise in time of peace. I’m going to start shifting them into jobs of greater responsibility than those they hold now…. Then I’m going to change them, suddenly, without warning, to jobs even more burdensome and difficult…. Those who stand up under the punishment will be pushed ahead. Those who fail are out at the first sign of faltering” (p.35).

In this new group of leaders Marshall looked for such things as physical strength and stamina, optimistic outlook, energetic determination and good common sense (p.25). He found these qualities in men like Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton. Marshall understood that to win wars the soldiers at the front needed to have the best leadership possible. This was Marshall’s guiding vision and he relieved officers accordingly—even if they had been friends and acquaintances of his for years.

Leaders need to pick the right middle-level leaders to help them move their organizations forward. Giving responsibility to those who don’t have the right vision, skill set or character traits for the particular job they are responsible for will only hinder an organization’s progress. We see the importance of making effective personnel choices in this week’s parsha when we are introduced to the anonymous group of Bnei Yisrael’s elders.

Initially, after informing the elders and Bnei Yisrael about the forthcoming redemption, Moshe, Aharon and the elders set out to demand from Pharaoh the release of the Israelites from bondage. However, when the Torah describes the actual confrontation in Pharaoh’s palace the pasuk (5:1) omits mention of the elders. The obvious question: what happened to them? Rashi comments that as the elders approached the palace and the reality of the situation became clear they began to slip away, one by one. By the time Moshe and Aharon arrived at the palace they were by themselves. Rashi explains that as a consequence of the elders’ behavior and lack of courage they were prevented from approaching Har Sinai with Moshe.

Rav Zalman Sorotskin, in his commentary Oznaim L’Torah, points out that the elders already suffered in Egypt as a result of their failure to accompany Moshe. Later in the perek the Torah relates how, upon receiving word of Pharaoh’s decree that the Israelites would now have to find their own straw to make the bricks, the elders were forced to approach Pharaoh and plead with him to give them straw. In the end the elders had to face the mighty king anyway—but it was now to beg, not to demand.

I believe these explanations offer us insight into what was the essential leadership shortcoming of the elders. It wasn’t that they were bad leaders per se. Rather, they were only effective local and immediate leaders. Their priority was making the best of Bnei Yisrael’s current abysmal situation. Whereas Moshe and Aharon were great visionaries looking to a bright future when Bnei Yisrael would be guided by the Torah, the elders were focused on the next sunrise. Whereas Moshe and Aharon exhibited the courage necessary to lead a nation into the desert and forge a brand new world, the elders had to show deference to the Pharaoh who could deny their people the next meal. Whereas Moshe and Aharon thought strategically, the elders were trapped in the tactical decisions of the moment, namely, where would they get the straw to make the bricks.

Ultimately, Moshe realized that these elders could not be the ones to lead Bnei Yisrael into the Promised Land. They would be forever stuck in the mud of Egypt. That was their point of reference—end of story. By the time Bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael forty years later they would be led by a bold new generation of leaders, equipped both spiritually and physically to accomplish their mission.

Relieving from office decent people who are no longer up to the job always was and always will be a difficult task. But what’s true for the army is true for all organizations. The young privates at the front who are risking their lives deserve the very best leadership they can get.

About the Author: Rabbi Dr. David Hertzberg is the principal of the Yeshivah of Flatbush Middle Division and is an adjunct assistant professor of History at Touro College.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Parshat Shemot”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Terror Attack near Shvut Rachel
Bad Terror Attack Near Shvut Rachel
Latest Judaism Stories
Staum-062615

Amalek, our ultimate foe, understood that when unified, we are invincible and indestructible.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Perhaps on a deeper level, the mitzvah of parah adumah at this junction was not just to purify the body, but the spirit as well.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Halacha isn’t random; it’s a mechanism guiding individuals and society to a higher ethical plateau.

Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Less clear, however, is whether the concept applies to the area of civil law such as the law of transfer of property.

The greatest of men, Moshe, had to wait for Hashem to sprinkle purifying waters on Bnei Yisrael to mark the conclusion of the period of death.

My Plate, My Food
‘My Loaf Is Forbidden To You’
(Nedarim 34b)

Of Chukkim “Satan and the nations of the world made fun.” They may appear irrational & superstitious

I realized from this story that I was sent as a messenger from above. Hashem has many helpers in this world to help do his work.

Tosafos answers that nevertheless the sprinkling is a part of his taharah process.

“What difference does that make?” replied Shraga. “What counts is the agreement that we made. I said two hundred fifty and you accepted.”

Zaidie’s legacy of smiles and loving words was all but buried with him, now the family fights over $

Israel’s complaining frustrated Moshe, making it increasingly hard for him to lead effectively

Dovid’s musical Torah teachings were designed to penetrate the soul and the emotions.

It occurred to me, as my brain rattled in my skull on a two-hundred mile ride through rural Virginia, that our souls work in much the same way.

More Articles from Rabbi David Hertzberg
Hertzberg-061215-running

A truly great leader is someone who not only leads and influences his immediate circle, but the broader world as well.

Hertzberg-051515

Though studying Torah is the most important mitzvah, it is performed in private.

Lincoln was not a perfect man. But he rose above his imperfections to do what he thought was right not matter the obstacles.

Before we embark on a major project or make a fateful decision we must get a wide-range of views and perspectives.

The Torah presents us with a model of how to effect change in a sustainable way.

Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of Britain’s men is not too great a price to pay.

This ability to remain calm under pressure and continue to see the situation clearly is a hallmark of Yehuda’s leadership.

Leaders must always pay attention to the importance of timing.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/parshat-shemot-3/2013/01/04/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: