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    Miriam has died.

    So has Aaron.

    Hashem tells

    Moses that his

    turn is about to

    come. “Go up this

    mountain in the Abarim range and see the

    land I have given the Israelites. After you

    have seen it, you too will be gathered to

    your people, as your brother Aaron was. .

    . .” At this dramatic moment, captured in

    this week’s portion (Pinchas), Moses

    speaks to Hashem. “May the Lord, the

    Hashem of the spirits of all mankind,

    appoint a man over this community to go

    out and come in before them, one who

    will lead them out and bring them in, so

    Hashem’s people will not be like sheep

    without a shepherd.” One can only

    imagine the emotions that engulfed

    Moses at the time. For more than four

    decades he had faithfully shepherded the

    people; with astonishing self-sacrifice he

    had committed himself completely to the

    creation and development of the nation

    of Israel. Now, as he is about to leave the

    world, he beseeches Hashem not to leave

    the people orphaned. We can be quite

    certain that Moses’ brief words contained

    far more than what is explicitly reported.

    Indeed, this is the “job” of the Midrash,

    to attune us to the nuanced expressions

    and intricate intimations within biblical

    narrative. The Midrash on this passage

    focuses our attention to the peculiar way

    in which Moses addresses Hashem at

    this particular encounter: “Hashem of the

    spirits”? What is the significance of this

    title? “Just as no two faces are identical,”

    states the Midrash, “no two personalities

    are identical. Every human being

    possesses an individual identity…

    During the time of his death, Moses

    requested from Hashem, saying, ‘Master

    of the universe! You are aware of the

    distinct personality of every single

    individual and that no two of your

    children are alike. When I pass away

    from them, I beg you, please designate

    for them a leader who will contain every

    single one of them according to his

    individuality… Hashem of the spirits!

    You recognize the individual spirit of

    each of your creatures, so appoint

    someone who will know how to

    walk with each individual

    according to his spirit.'” Two

    Forms of Leadership This is a

    remarkable interpretation. Perhaps

    more than anything else, it

    captures Judaism’s view on the

    meaning of genuine leadership.

    Leadership, in all its forms — in

    the family, in the work place, in

    schools, organizations, spiritual

    communes and societies — is not

    about cloning people to fit the

    image and disposition of the

    leader. An authentic leader must

    embrace, rather than shun, human

    diversity. To a true leader, the

    distinctions between people are a

    positive phenomenon, not a threat. It is

    rooted in the leader’s appreciation of the

    creator of humanity as “Hashem of the

    spirits,” one Hashem who created many

    distinct faces, spirits and hearts, each of

    them called upon to experience life in a

    unique and individual fashion. One of

    the great challenges facing many

    marriages, communities and societies

    today is the notion of “My way or no

    way.” Or as a person once remarked: “I

    am easy to get along with, once you

    learn to worship me.” It’s a feeling

    that the landscape of my emotions

    and of my religious experience is the

    only terrain worth treading on. If

    you think differently, if you have a

    different path, you must be on the

    wrong team. Judaism, on the other

    hand, declares the oneness of

    Hashem and the plurality of man.

    The idea that all of us must be the

    same is foreign to the Judaic ethos.

    John Lennon’s “Imagine,”

    notwithstanding its powerfully

    luring message, is merely that: a

    figment of imagination, an abstract

    fantasy not rooted in reality.

    Diversity is sown into the very

    fabric of existence. No two flakes of

    snow are alike; no two people are

    alike. A leader’s goal is not to have

    all of his or her followers look alike,

    but rather to contain within himself

    or herself the unique disposition and

    soul-energy of each individual,

    guiding them to maximize their own

    potential, just as the brain guides

    individual limbs and organs to

    function according to their

    particular nature within a larger

    organism. This applies to all

    leadership positions, including, of

    course, the respective leadership

    roles of spouses in marriage. The

    goal in marriage is not to think

    alike, but to think together. No two

    individuals think alike, nor should

    they. A successful marriage is about

    learning how to contain within your

    own space the presence of a distinct

    individual without feeling the need to

    suppress the spouse’s otherness, so that

    your identity reigns exclusively in the

    relationship. Like notes in a ballad, each

    of us represents a unique and distinct

    note, and together we recreate the

    symphony, not by singing the same note,

    but by expressing our individual note as

    an indispensible part of the song.

    Absolutes Vs. Individuality Yet we have

    to be committed to the same song. If not,

    our individual notes can create chaos

    rather than a melody. The importance of

    individuality does not mean that every

    whim and instinct of an individual ought

    to be sanctioned in the name of

    individual self-expression. If we wish

    this world not to be a jungle, we must

    recognize that Hashem, the “Hashem of

    the spirits,” created absolute universal

    standards of morality and ethics that bind

    all of humanity. To the Jewish people,

    Hashem presented an absolute system of

    Torah and mitzvos. Yet this does not

    compromise the focus of Judaism on

    individual expression. Within the

    framework of the moral life and the

    Torah life, the paths to truth are endless,

    not unlike the same 88 keys of the piano

    which lend themselves to endless

    musical combinations. Mozart, Handel,

    Beethoven, Schubert, Bach and

    Tchaikovsky did not need to create new

    keys in order to display their creative

    genius and musical brilliance. We, too,

    need not create or change the moral and

    Torah law in order to express our

    individuality. External individualism

    relies on external and visible changes in

    order to assert itself. Internal

    individualism, being in tune to your own

    inner rhythm, allows you to transform

    the same old notes into beacons of

    pulsating creativity. Moses’ plea to

    Hashem to appoint a leader who can

    contain and embrace diversity

    constitutes a lesson to us about the

    quality of leadership we ought to

    cultivate in our relationships with each of

    our children, students, employees, and

    people we have influence on, allowing

    them to shine in their own beautiful way.

    We must be leaders to whom people can

    look to as a source of inspiration through

    which they can embrace life with their

    own individuated hug.