The common denominator among true leaders is a keen sense of foresight.
This week’s Torah portion is “Beshalach” (Exodus 13:17 – 17:17), and in it we read about the Jewish people’s Exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, and the 40-year stay in the desert that followed. Even if you saw the movie, believe me, it’s worth reading the book!
How did the over one-million Jews survive in the desert for 40 years? There were no kosher restaurants in the Sinai desert!
The Torah tells us that God sent the people “manna” each morning. The manna would literally rain down on them. It was a heavenly food that sustained the Jews for four decades. We are told that it would taste like whatever the person eating it was craving – burger and fries, pizza, salami, chocolate ice-cream; you name it. A multi-tasting food.
The Midrash (rabbinic literature) says that along with the manna each day, God also sent precious stones, diamonds, and jewels alongside it. That’s right, free jewelry….every woman’s dream.
Here’s the really interesting part: We are told that only the leaders of the nation gathered these jewels along with their manna each day. Everyone else took the manna.
Does that not seem strange? Why didn’t everyone gather the jewels?
It is explained that most people realized that they didn’t need the jewelry. There were no banks in the desert, no trading floors, no diamond exchange. All their needs were provided for. God gave the Jewish people everything they needed: food, water, and, as the Midrash says, even clothing. There were no stores or malls. Money wasn’t needed. That’s why they didn’t take the jewels.
Let’s be honest: That’s quite a noble reasoning. The people were focused on what was important and what they needed – not the “extras.”
So why did the leaders of the people gather the jewels?
They realized that one day soon, the Jewish people would be commanded to build a Tabernacle, a portable synagogue that would accompany them in the desert. What better way to decorate a house of God than with precious jewels?
So, too, the question is asked: Where did the Jews get the wood to build the Tabernacle? There are no forests in the desert.
We are told that the patriarch Jacob planted cedar trees when he first came down to Egypt because he, too, foresaw that his descendants might need wood one day. And so it was! When the Jews left Egypt, they cut down these trees and took the wood with them, which they used to build the Tabernacle.
The common denominator between those who collected the jewels and Jacob who planted the trees is an amazing sense of foresight. The sign of a leader is one who thinks ahead and prepares for the future. Make sure that you do too – for yourself and for your family, or you just might miss the jewels.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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