This week, Parasha Beha’aloscha teaches us some interesting lessons in leadership.
God commands Moses on the way in which the Menorah is to be lit. The Menorah provides leadership in the Mishkan by providing light so everyone can see.
God commands Moses and Aaron to consecrate the Levites, who will help lead the people to holiness by serving in the Mishkan in a ceremony that includes picking them up and waving them.
Some men who could not eat the Korban Pesach (Passover offering) because they were ritually unclean or where too far away take the lead in pursuing their rights to participate in the mitzvot by asking Moses how they could observe Passover. Moses asks God, who commands the mitzvah of Pesach Sheini (second Passover).
The Children of Israel are given holy symbols to lead them through the Wilderness, the Clouds of Glory, described as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.
Moses’ father-in-law, Yitro, prepares to leave the Israelites, but Moses asks him to stay. Even though Yitro is not Jewish, his good works for the Israelites in advising Moses makes him a valuable leader.
Discontented people among the Israelites complain that the manna God provides is not satisfactory. They say they miss the fish and vegetables they had in Egypt, and want meat. Moses, ever the dedicated leader, asks God how he can control the complainers.
God responds by commanding Moses to gather 70 elders of the tribes, to serve as a council to assist Moses in leading the people. God will increase the spirit of Moses – his wisdom – and give some of it to the elders to enable them to wisely help Moses lead the people.
Moses tells each of the 12 tribes to choose six elders for the council. Rashi explains this will provide 72 elders, and God commanded the council consist of only 70, so Moses creates a lottery. He makes 72 tickets, 70 of which have “Elder” written on them, and two are blank. Two candidates, Eldad and Medad, are not chosen. Rashi says they were so humble, they anticipated they would not be chosen because they did not deserve the honor, and so did not attend the lottery. Although they did not participate in the meeting of the council, but stayed among the people, God still gave them the gift of prophecy.
Moses’ assistant Joshua learns that Eldad and Medad are prophesying and tells Moses. Moses responds, “Are you being zealous for my sake? Would that the entire people of God could be prophets, if God would but place His spirit on them.”
The story of Eldad and Medad teaches many lessons about leadership. God shows Moses that it is good to share leadership. Moses shares leadership with the people, by having the tribes select the candidates for the council. Eldad and Medad exhibit humility, an important quality in a leader, in that they have no expectations of being chosen. When Joshua expresses surprise that two men who were not chosen in the lottery are prophesying, Moses again shares leadership by proclaiming how great it would be for God to endow many people with wisdom.
The founder of the Order of the Arrow, Dr. E. Urner Goodman, explained that leaders can either lead up or down. This week, we saw how Moses, the Levites, Yitro, Eldad and Medad, through observance of God’s commandments, humility, and service to the Jewish people, led up and helped in the Wildnerness. Next week, we will learn how those with special talents led down, and the terrible consequences it had for the Children of Israel.