Under Pressure: Shelakh Lekha 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Why are great leaders able to advocate for their followers most forcefully when backed into a corner? Is it possible that they thrive under pressure? Or are they able to rise to occasion because they have no other choice?

Moses argues like his life depends on it even when God declares that God will destroy every Israelite except for Moses:

The Pitch: “Therefore, I pray, let my Lord’s forbearance be great, as You have declared.” – Numbers 14:17

Swing #1: “The intercession of Moses is based on the fear, to use his chilling image, that God will ‘kill all this people as one man.’ Therefore, invoking the formula of Exodus that balances retribution with mercy, Moses pleads once again for pardon of the people, as they have been forgiven all along.” – Aaron Wildavsky, Moses as Political Leader

Swing #2: “Moses has some of his finest hours standing before God to argue for mercy for the people. He models a leader who is unbowed by the awesome power of God when faced with great danger and with a violation of the norms of justice that God has Himself proclaimed.” – Sheldon Lewis, The Torah of Reconciliation

Swing #3: “Moses considers a display of being able to suppress one’s anger as the greatest proof of greatness. Our sages in Ethics have defined the term ‘hero’ as someone who can conquer his emotions when they threaten to overrule his intellect.” – Da’at Zkenim

Late-Inning Questions: What personal qualities do our commentators believe Moses displays when confronting God? Are these qualities common among our leaders today? How would today’s leaders have handled the challenges Moses faces in the wilderness?

On-Deck at TBT: As we have begun June, our Shabbat services tomorrow morning will include readings and tributes to LGBTQ+ Pride and our welcoming spirit. Join us in-person if you can starting at 9:30a.m., or on livestream.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of pressure-filled moments, baseball statisticians have argued for a while that there’s no such thing as a player being “clutch”. As much as I typically agree with sabermetrics, I still believe that there simply are players who are at their best when their team needs them the most. Think David Ortiz, Madison Bumgarner, and Yadier Molina, to name just three examples.

Shabbat Shalom!