It’s finally happening. The Exodus begins. Our commentators remind us that the chapters we are now reading are less about history and more about our daily lives and present reality. If we overcame Pharaoh, we can certainly overcome our current predicaments. Here are two thoughts that encourage us to personally leave Egypt, as represented by whatever challenges we face today:
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook wrote: “Leaving Egypt will forever represent spring for the entire world.” In other words, this is a story that will provide eternal inspiration to many nations and multitudes of people, not only us. It’s a story for all those experiencing the first true spring, or complete sense of renewal, in their lives.
And in the book Netivot Shalom, Rabbi Shalom Noach Berezovsky wrote: “The entire mission for which a human being exists in this world is to take himself out of Egypt.” Each person has his own particular form of enslavement, each person his own path to redemption.
L E A D E R S H I P !
These are times in which our political leadership is criticized by many on a regular basis. This week we are reminded that there is another type of leadership which is just as important as the political type, if not more so. Seventy years ago on the 10th of Shevat, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson became the “Lubavitcher Rebbe” and the leader of the Chabad Chasidic movement. Here are three thoughts prompted by the anniversary of the Rebbe’s assumption of leadership:
1. Leadership during a crisis can bring about a revolution. The Lubavitcher Rebbe assumed leadership in 1950. It was a time when the Jewish people were reeling from the Holocaust, Jewish practice in Communist Russia had been outlawed, and Jewish observance in America was significantly diminished due to the powerful attraction of glitzy American culture. It was precisely within this profoundly challenging environment that the Rebbe began a revolution: Judaism would not be passive and defensive. Judaism would not only be concerned with conserving the world of the past, but it would also be activist and inspirational looking to the future. Judaism had much to say and its voice needed to be heard.
2. Leadership creates more leaders. The Lubavitcher Rebbe is famously described as someone who did not wish to create more Chasidim, but rather more leaders. Each Jew was encouraged to see himself as a shaliach, an emissary, a leader, with responsibility for every other Jew. If there was no Jewish kindergarten in Morocco, if there was no mikveh in Colorado, if kosher food was needed in New Zealand, if a Jew was arrested in Thailand – it is our responsibility to rectify the situation, to demonstrate concern for every other Jew, young or old, near or far away. These days are appropriate for adopting this approach: We can be there for a neighbor who tested positive for the coronavirus, or lend a hand to a frustrated business owner.
3. Leadership begins at home. With all due respect to changing the world, leadership begins with self-control and is measured, first of all, in our relationships with family and our immediate surroundings. It’s not easy, but between waiting in another long line and one more enervating stretch of isolation with the kids, we can still choose to act in positive ways, not as unfortunate, exhausted victims of circumstance, but as leaders.
(Translation by Yehoshua Siskin)