Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah-Chukat

Ok, you know the joke, “How many Synagogue board members does it take to change a light bulb?” “Change? The founding matriarch of this congregation gave that light bulb, it does not get changed!”

The one sentence that stifles the growth of any organization: “This is the way we have always done it.” We run into this roadblock way too often, and then wonder why the next generation has no interest in getting involved.

Change is inevitable and necessary, but it has to happen in an appropriate and meaningful way. This week’s Torah portion demonstrates a real changing of the guard in the leadership over Israel: a generational shift. God lets Moses and Aaron know that they won’t be entering the land of Israel with the people.

The text is ultimately confusing as to why they won’t go in. Most of our scholarship somehow insists that God punishes them for some major error in their past. Reading the entirety of the story, though, I am quite sure that it is not so certain. What is clear, though, is that a new generation of leadership must lead Israel into its new home and new era. Moses groomed Joshua. Aaron trained his offspring. After 40 years of wandering, a leadership mode of survival had to give way to a leadership model of growth and renewal. The leadership model of wandering had to yield to the one of building roots. Especially given the changing scenario facing the way in which Israel will live, continuing to live by the older rules and mandates will serve only to make society more and more dysfunctional. As the world changes, the way in which we confront it must change, as well.

This truth holds sway for every organization in the business, religious, educational, governmental, and social part of our world. Yet, even while we know that change and evolution are going to happen, people in power fight to keep it from happening. Thousands of houses of worship close every year simply because they lack the vision and courage to evolve to stay relevant. I am blessed to serve a community that understands that change is emotionally tough, but absolutely necessary. We see businesses … and governments rise and fall over the powerbrokers’ fear of the unknown or deep-seated faith that lets them take the first step into the abyss of evolution.

Faith is the root of all progress. What passes for faith, though, is often fear and prejudice. It takes faith to believe that we exist in a partnership with God. Where we give it all to God, we excuse failure as God’s will. We accept success as God’s unique and personal blessing. Either way, there are no lessons from which to learn and no good or bad practices for one to dispose of or replicate and hone. When we invest ourselves in a partnership with divinity, we find incredible power to grow and celebrate success and learn and grow from the places where our efforts proved inadequate. It takes tremendous faith to believe that change is necessary and that even at the cost of one’s own power-base, we must look to tomorrow.

Last night, my babiest baby graduated High School. Lori and I have spent the last 32 years raising children in our homes. When we married, she took on Rachel as her own … we are about to be empty nesters. More importantly, we raised our respective 7 children to own their own futures, and to faithfully understand the resources and power available to them with which to help change the world. In each of his/her own way, they have all succeeded in creating and fostering meaningful relationships that bring people together in love, in trust, and in security. Moses put his hands on Joshua’s shoulders and told him to be strong and courageous … and true. As we watched Rachel cross the stage and accept her diploma and honors, we lovingly and officially passed the mantle of leadership on to our entire next generation. As Israel entered the next chapter in preparing to settle the land, our lives take on a new chapter as our children take over with relevant new ideas and greater energy than we can muster. We instilled within them deeply rooted values and grounding. They are not “starting over,” but they are starting fresh. I stand excited for our future, no differently than God stood excited as God’s children entered to settle the Promised Land.

Shabbat is a time to renew; not just regenerate. Let’s join with the psalmist and “Sing a new song” as we celebrate our future. Shabbat Shalom.