When treason meets reason

It was the most volatile issue of its time.  Entry into the Promised Land.  Yet two full Tribes, Reuven and Gad, seek to settle elsewhere.  Moses confronts their potentially treasonous request to permanently dwell on the eastern side of the Jordan River.

Moses’s leadership is at its best.  He boldly challenges their brazen request.  Their inquiry could lead to a more treacherous outcome that the the Sin of the Spies.  He clarifies that they must first lead the way in conquering every acre of Promised Land territory.  Then Moses reorders their priorities.  They had planned on building “sheepfolds for our flocks and towns for our children” (Num. 32:16).  He reverses the sequence.  “Build towns for your children and then sheepfolds for your flocks” (Num. 32:24), making certain that they will value family (children) above finances (flocks).  Moses requires more of them and then revises their priorities.  Treason and reason don’t often get along.  Yet Moses turns what could have been a catastrophic iniquity into a trust-building inquiry.

“Leadership” Steven Covey writes “is getting results in a way that inspires trust.”  It is not an accident that the Torah’s incident in which trust is restored relates to spacious terrain.  Earning trust requires an opening up.

Making space for another to clarify her or his intent comes first.  Revealing ours comes next.  Transparency can, of course, make matters worse.  But it can also provide the potential to take a risk to move toward new terrain.   This is what transpires at the end of the Torah’s fourth Book.

There is a rare alignment in the Torah scroll between the scriptural reading for the New Month and the concluding passages of the Book of Numbers.  This alignment only occurs with the Hebrew month of Av.  This year, the months of August and Av also align, at the hottest season of the year.  May heat’s expansive quality lead us toward more spacious days ahead.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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