A Message from Rabbi Tom

MCJC Connections
May/June 2018 ~ Iyar/Sivan/Tamuz ~ Volume 5778

Rabbi Tom Samuels

Leadership guru Jim Collins describes a great leader as “an individual who blends extreme personal humility with an intense professional will.” Collins points out that such a combination is a rarity and needs to be recognized and appreciated. “Leaders,” Collins writes, “who possess this paradoxical combination of traits are catalysts for the statistically rare event of transforming a good company into a great one.”

MCJC and I have been blessed to have such leaders at our helm: outgoing president, Jack Fishman, and outgoing vice-president, Rob Perbohner. From my personal experience over the past two years that I have served as MCJC’s spiritual leader, Jack and Rob have weathered the storms that inevitably come with transitions and changes. They have done so with grace, respect, and as true mensches, readily willing to learn, to let go, and most important, to trust. They both truly exemplify the best of a reflective leadership and governance style marked by a careful examination of alternatives, a commitment to overarching purpose, attention to relationships, and a mastery of both big picture and detail. I will miss them both dearly.

Our Torah gives us a model for a healthy transition of leadership in the narrative of Moses presenting his successor, Joshua, to the Israelites: “And Moses went and spoke these words unto all Israel. And he said to them ‘I am a hundred and twenty years-old this day. I can no more go out and come in. And the Lord said to me, ‘You shall not go over the Jordan. The Lord, your God, He will go over before you and Joshua,’ he will go over before you.” (Deuteronomy 31:1-3)

But the narrative leaves the reader in a state of not knowing: How would Moses feel in the end? Might he act on feelings of jealousy? And, how would the Israelites react? Would they embrace Joshua? After all, they had spent the past forty tumultuous years with Moses, through the ups and downs that are at the foundation of any deeply-rooted, intimate relationship formation process. Would they be able to let go of Moses and accept his young assistant, Joshua? And finally, would Joshua, so used to being second-in-command to Moses, be able to assume the mantle of prime leadership? Would he be overwhelmed by this new responsibility, the very fate of his people burdened on his shoulders alone? (Rabbi
Schulweis)

Let us return to the first three words cited in the Torah passage above, “And Moses went.” Where, in fact, did Moses go? The great medieval Spanish commentator Ibn Ezra (1089-1167) writes that Moses went from tribe to tribe, tent to tent, comforting his people and encouraging them to embrace the closure of his leadership, while at the same time the continuation of the leadership of God, and the new leadership of Joshua. No one leader, not even Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our Teacher, the only human to have seen the face of God, is indispensable, irreplaceable. The organization, is far larger than any one person.

All transitions, our Torah is teaching us, leave us with questions, doubts, and fear of the unknown. However, while those times of transitions might feel daunting, it is precisely these in-between phases, before the old is entirely gone and the new entirely settled, which allow for innovation, radically honest self-reflection, and consequently individual, relational, and collective actualization.

As Jack and Rob’s board terms come to an end this May, and as they tirelessly continue to dedicate their time and energy to ensuring a smooth transition to a new MCJC board, they exemplify and inspire the Talmudic dictum: “This is what the Holy One said to Israel: My
children, what do I seek from you? I seek no more than that you have the love for one another, honor one another, and that you have awe and reverence for one another.” (Tanna de Bei Eliyahu Rabbah)

I will miss having Jack and Rob as our board leaders. At the same time, I look forward to working with our new board and new energy. In the end, the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land and thrived. And so shall MCJC.

B’Shalom,
Rabbi Tom

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