The Wendy Blickstein D’var Torah Competition recognizes achievements in D’var Torah writing on a particular theme. This year’s theme was leadership and authenticity in relationship to Parasha Yitro. Mazel tov to Zoe Rosenberg, whose D’var Torah came in 3rd place. Read the other winning pieces.
Yitro: Unpacking Leadership though Delegation
By Zoe Rosenberg
It’s the day of the first night of Pesach, and your whole house is a mess with chametz being thrown out, matzah everywhere, your mother making matzah balls, dad setting the table and your little sister throwing things at you and calling them the eleventh plague. (or is that just me?) Your dad yells to you and your brother, “Make the charoset please! How could we have forgotten it?” Begrudgingly Begrudingly , because you were making the chocolate toffee matzah, a coveted job, you and your brother chop the apples, add the wine, and cinnamon. But when it finally comes time to add the nuts, an argument to the scale of the Hasmonean revolt ensues.
You want to add walnuts, like bubbe always did, but you brother saw a Tasty video on Facebook that said to add pecans. The fight gets bigger and bigger, until somehow the charoset ends up all over the kitchen. Now That sounds like the eleventh plague. When your father delegated the leadership role of charoset, he probably expected it to get done in a timely fashion (with walnuts, of course) so he would be able to fold the napkins to look like frogs. In delegating leadership, you run the risk of things being done in a way that you wouldn’t want or it not getting done at all. In delegation, the delegator does get more time to spend on other matters, but, in this case, the charoset was left up to the work of hooligans.
In this week’s parsha, Yitro, Moses is told by his father in law that he probably should delegate some of his leadership tasks. Moses was hearing every single problem that the Children of Israel had, and let me tell you that “children” is the right name for the Israelites. With more problems than JayZ, Moses was booked! Yitro saw that and said, “Lo Tov!” “The thing you are doing is not right, you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well.” (Exodus 19: 1819) He suggested to Moses that he should find good, God fearing men to serve as Judges for the people (by the people). Every minor dispute was to be solved by these judges, and the major ones would be decided with Moses and God. With the giving away of power, Moses was letting these judges add pecans instead of walnuts. The charoset would still be made, but with the possibility of it being made differently.
In NFTY, there is a huge focus on everyone being a leader. From North American Board to temple boards, there are so many leadership opportunities available. You can be a leader like Moses, at the front of the room and everyone knows your name, or you can be a leader like the third in command of the tribe of Binyamin, in charge of getting firewood. Not everyone necessarily knows who you are, or what exactly you do, but without you and what you do, a whole tribe (or TYG) would fall apart! Leadership isn’t all about being the Moses, or even the Aaron or Miriam. When God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, He/She didn’t just give it to Moses, not even just to the Levites and Kohanim. God gave the commandments to all the people, giving everyone a leadership role to uphold the commandments.
With a firm code in place, the Israelites may have had 613 new problems, but avodah zarah wasn’t the only one (for now). The Israelites were now leaders, each a light unto the nations on how to act justly. In NFTY, not just the President and Regional Board have to be good role models. It is up to every general ember, every TYG board member, every songleader and group leader to be a positive example, and to lead in their own right. While leading of course, one must delegate the leadership. A songleader cannot plan every single song session by themselves, and the Regional president can’t plan a kallah without the help of their board. No matter which role that you fulfill, from firewood gatherer to Moses, a leader of any stature has to take pride in their job, and do it well. Maybe if when making the charoset, instead of being mad that you had to do a lesser job than assembling chocolate toffee matzah, if you had fully embraced and took pride in your job as charoset maker, things would have turned out differently. Maybe you and your brother would have discovered that the best charoset has both walnuts, and pecans.
Zoe Rosenberg is a Junior from Saint Louis, Missouri. She is part of her temple youth group, UHTYG, and NFTY Missouri Valley. She has attended URJ GUCI for the past 8 years, excluding last summer when she attended URJ Kutz camp. She is an alum of NFTY-EIE High School in Israel, and is a NFTY Convention Fellow. She loves songleading, baking, and plays lacrosse.