Leadership is Servanthood

vestmentsThere is a theme that is very similar to another earlier in the Torah.  Below is the passage from Parsha Tetzaveh:

These are the garments they shall make: a breast piece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. “And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked[1]

This should sound sadly like this passage:

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him[2]

While I would never doubt that Joseph was his father’s favorite, we must undertstand the favoritism was far deeper than simply that he was the son of his old age, because that honor truly fell upon Benjamin. Israel saw something in the boy and gave him the task of running the family business at the tender age of 17. When Joseph was sold into Potiphar’s house, he quickly climbed the ranks and was in charge of the whole household. In prison, he soon ran the prison. With Pharaoh, he was given charge of the whole country, save the affairs of Pharaoh. These gentlemen all saw something in Joseph that his brothers could not see through their anger. The words of Pharaoh sum up Joseph’s persona better than any other I’ve found:

…Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God[3]?

Joseph’s robe of many colors parallels the beged of the Cohen Gadol. It’s possible that Joseph’s robe was designed to show his place in the family: he would serve the function of the firstborn by providing the family korban [sacrifices]. He, in essence, was going to be the cohen for his family.

The similarities do not end here. For just as Joseph’s robe caused jealousy among his bothers, so Aaron’s Yom Kippur clothing garnered jealousy among his brothers, especially one called Korah.

And Moshe said to Korach, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do service in the tabernacle of Hashem and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also[4]?

Korah was seeking positions of power and authority, and he was seeking to sate his personal need of power and this was doomed to corrupt him. Having authority in the synagogue or at work is not a bad thing; it’s what one does or what one  to do with this authority that can be a problem. Whether at work or at Shul, positions of authority are actually positions of servanthood. Leaders are to empower others to be able to effectively do their job with minimal stress. Leaders must back their charges and they must take the heat when things go sour or when someone decides to gripe or throw a wrench into the works. Without this servant-minded approach, the synagogue will constantly have turnover of leadership, be it sound, oneg, setup and cleanup, shirim, teaching, the chavurot [home study groups], or any other function. All these functions are servant positions and all these people want to do is serve G-d – and you – with a joyful heart. It is up to us to help them accomplish that simple desire. Our goal at Tikvat Shalom Congregation should be no different than the goal of any other synagogue: to provide a safe haven for people to bless Hashem and to bless others. We are here on Earth to utilize our gifts and talents to further the Kingdom of Heaven, not to further our kingdom.

[1] Exodus 28:4-6

[2] Genesis 37:3-4

[3] Genesis 41:37

[4] Numbers 16:7-10

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