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Shelach Lecha

Friday, 28th June 2019

It was perhaps the single greatest collective failure of leadership in the Torah. Ten of the spies whom Moses had sent to spy out the land came back with a report calculated to demoralize the nation.

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large … We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are …

This was nonsense, and they should have known it. They had left Egypt, the greatest empire of the ancient world, after a series of plagues that brought that great country to its knees. They had crossed the seemingly impenetrable barrier of the Red Sea. They had fought and defeated the Amalekites, a ferocious warrior nation.

They should have known that the people of the land were afraid of them, not the other way round.

Only Joshua and Caleb among the twelve showed leadership. They told the people that the conquest of the land was eminently achieveable because G-d was with them. The people did not listen. But the two leaders received their reward. They alone of their generation lived to enter the land.

One of the fundamental tasks of any leader from president to parent is to give people a sense of confidence. A leader must have faith in the people he or she leads, and inspire that faith in them. “Leadership is not about the leader, it is about how he or she builds the confidence of everyone else.”

A law of self-fulfilling prophecy applies in the human arena. Those who say, “We cannot do it” are probably right, as are those who say, “We can.” If you lack confidence you will lose. If you have it – solid, justified confidence based on preparation and past performance – you will win. Not always, but often enough to triumph over setbacks and failures.

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