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Vayikra: Where Are Our Leaders?

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As I was reading the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, a fascinating thought came to me and I realized one of the biggest problems we are facing today.

This week we begin reading the third book of the Chumash, the book of Vayikra, Leviticus. The first verse opens with a seemingly missing word. It says: “Vayikra el Moshe,” which translated literally means: ‘And called to Moses.’ Who called to Moses? The verse does not say. It is G-d that called to Moses, but the verse omits the subject and just states: ‘Called to Moses’ without the word G-d!

Chassidic thought explains that this omission is actually a powerful addition: The essence of G-d defies any name and description. This verse wants to convey to us that G-d’s essence called to Moses, thus even the name “G-d” is not mentioned; the verse merely states “And ___ called to Moses,” telling us that the call came from a place that transcends definitions, a place that has no name or title. Had the verse stated G-d’s name, by even merely using the word “G-d” (‘And G-d called to Moses’) it would have meant that this particular dimension of G-dliness (expressed in the name “G-d”) called to Moses. By not using any name, the verse tells us that this is a call from the Essence.

What this tells us is that G-d’s lack of tangible manifestation is actually His deepest expression, the expression of His deepest essence. A good human example for this is the fact that your deepest emotions, your most intimate feelings are the ones that have the least forms of expression. Words, even sounds are simply inadequate to express our most intimate self.

Ok, so what has this esoteric concept to do with current events?

With all that has been going on in the world – the revolution spreading across the Middle East, inevitably shifting the balance of the entire world – one thing that stands out to me perhaps more than anything else is: Our conspicuous lack of leadership.

Where are our leaders – political, religious, spiritual, any sort of leader?! Besides the prerequisite mumbles, why are we not hearing from anyone – not in the Arab world, not in Israel, not in America, not anywhere on the globe – about strength, determination, cause, hope, commitment – anything that would give us some direction, some focus.

In times of calm we perhaps can get away with the excuse that we don’t need real leaders, only administrators. The argument can be made, that true leaders will emerge when we need them. But now times of crisis have arrived. Where are our leaders? Our elected official, going all the way to the top, appear to be like deer caught in the headlights…

Does this mean that we have are no true leaders?

It’s one thing when G-d is invisible and people are not. It’s quite another matter when G-d is visible and we are not.

A friend asked me the other day, “Why is G-d being so cruel to us, allowing — over the past decades — all these senseless killings, first in Israel and then the terrorism that has spread to the USA and the West, and now the new battles raging in Libya, with undoubtedly more to come?”

My gut reaction was that the exact opposite is true. G-d has never been as good to us as He is today. Freedom from outside oppression is today’s norm, as opposed to say, 500 years ago, when the world was controlled by monarchs and despots (and is still that way in most of the Middle East). For Jews in particular this is the first time in history that they are not subjugated and at the mercy of any foreign power, and can live freely as Jews. G-d is very good to us. He has blessed us with gifts of comfort, prosperity and unprecedented liberties. Problems today are not from the outside, but from within.

True, terrorists are still at large and continue to kill innocents. But I submit that today we have control to do something about it. We are not under the governmental control of any foreign sovereignty (unlike in the past, say, during the terror of the Nazi regime, when the people of Germany and other occupied countries were completely under the tyrannical control of the Nazis). Today we have the power to choose whether we will be victims or not. And our wisdom and courage could have prevented – and can continue to prevent – attacks against us and our way of life.

The sad irony is that when life was much more difficult and it appeared that G-d was not so good to us (at least to the naked eye), we were very good to Him; there was profound spiritual dedication to our heritage and tradition. When G-d is good to us and life goes well, we become apathetic and petty, and often even worse.

What is it about us human beings?! Why do we need pain and loss to crystallize our goals and provoke our will to fight for what we believe in?

And what is G-d to do about us? As Divine Parent and Creator of us all, what are G-d’s options when we choose to ignore or neglect our calling? Should He allow us to just live in denial, or should He allow us to hurt each other to the point where we realize that something is wrong and something must change?

No parent would want to have to make that choice.

By no means will I even attempt to conjecture how G-d deals with this quandary. The only thing I believe we can do is figure our what our responsibility is today.

Perhaps ‘established’ leadership has become, over the years of comfortable prosperity, convenient bureaucracies, complacent and content, unprepared for real war.

Perhaps the lack of leadership today is actually a sign of a major addition (like the omission of G-d’s name reveals for us G-d’s essence): That instead of finding leadership among specific individuals, the essential leader within each of us needs to emerge. Leadership today will come from the grass roots – from you and I and simple laypeople like ourselves, recognizing that enough is enough and we need to act.

We cannot just wait for some leader to rise and save us all. We need to do our part to create a revolution. A revolution of passion to discovering our calling. A spiritual revolution that will shake the very frameworks of our old paradigms and allow us to introduce a new one.

Perhaps the time has come to challenge our status quo – both in our personal and professional lives, and perhaps consider, just consider, that maybe, maybe G-d is a critical component in our lives. Perhaps we cannot be happy and fulfilled—and live in peace with each other despite our diversity – without G-d, without a connection to our souls, without actualizing the purpose of our being here on Earth.

And the fact that G-d often seems invisible means that His very Essence is with us. Perhaps the time has come for us to reveal our essence as well.

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where are our leaders

this article is so relevant in 2006.