As a rabbi, I have learned that you can never please all of the people all of the time; however you can please all of the people some of the time. The question is when the right thing to do is one which will cause the displeasure of others. Moses, our people’s greatest leader, had numerous periods in which he lost the confidence of the Israelite nation, when they complained and wanted to return to Egypt. If even our people’s greatest leader could not make the people happy, how can we hope to do so?!
Happiness comes from within a person. It’s not something that we can find through materialism or through external circumstances. We often feel ‘if only _______ happened, I’d be happy’. We sometimes look to leaders, be they politicians, social workers, teachers or clergy, to fix our problems rather than reflectively looking inside ourselves. However, a leader is not a savior. A leader’s job is not to try to make others happy; that is each individual’s job. A leader’s task is to act out of the courage of his/her convictions to try to make the world we live in better, but that is not by solving every problem that comes our way. Moses could lead Israel towards the Promised Land but he could not change their mentality, making them excited to leave slavery for freedom and to enter a land of milk and honey. The hard, individualistic work of a positive mindset in spite of whatever is going on is left up to each and every one of us.
It is my hope that each of us will find the inner spirit to meet head-on any challenge we face with positivity, serenity and grace and that we are able to appreciate all that we have rather than taking it for granted. We are blessed to live in the mecca of South Florida with beautiful winter weather and with so much to offer people of all ages. When we recognize that we might not have everything we want, may we take the time to turn inward and see what we can do to better our situation rather than outward to blame others. Let each of us work hard to take ownership of and become the authors of our own lives, and in so doing may we find wholeness and happiness rather than resentment and bitterness. As Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers) teaches “Who is strong? One who conquers his/her impulses. Who is rich? One who is happy with what s/he has.” Our leaders can lead us to the path; may we do our part so that we can reach the Promised Land.