In a quote: "You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” - Ken Kesey
This week's parsha is action packed. It begins with the purification of the Leviim before they work in the mishkan and the laws surrounding their service. It then outlines the creation of two trumpets that would be used to signal, depending on the sound that was made, how and where Bnei Yisrael should travel. We then hear the story of how Bnei Yisrael demanded meat after becoming sick of Ma'an and lastly the story of Miriam telling Lashon Hara (gossiping) and being struck with the spiritual skin disease - leprosy.
However we are going to focus on the somewhat unknown story of Eldad and Medad, two leaders within the camp who start to share prophecy with the People of Israel. The story is only a few lines and goes as follows.
וַיִּשָּׁאֲר֣וּ שְׁנֵֽי־אֲנָשִׁ֣ים ׀ בַּֽמַּחֲנֶ֡ה שֵׁ֣ם הָאֶחָ֣ד ׀ אֶלְדָּ֡ד וְשֵׁם֩ הַשֵּׁנִ֨י מֵידָ֜ד וַתָּ֧נַח עֲלֵיהֶ֣ם הָר֗וּחַ וְהֵ֙מָּה֙ בַּכְּתֻבִ֔ים וְלֹ֥א יָצְא֖וּ הָאֹ֑הֱלָה וַיִּֽתְנַבְּא֖וּ בַּֽמַּחֲנֶֽה׃וַיָּ֣רָץ הַנַּ֔עַר וַיַּגֵּ֥ד לְמֹשֶׁ֖ה וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֶלְדָּ֣ד וּמֵידָ֔ד מִֽתְנַבְּאִ֖ים בַּֽמַּחֲנֶֽה׃ וַיַּ֜עַן יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ בִּן־נ֗וּן מְשָׁרֵ֥ת מֹשֶׁ֛ה מִבְּחֻרָ֖יו וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲדֹנִ֥י מֹשֶׁ֖ה כְּלָאֵֽם׃ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לוֹ֙ מֹשֶׁ֔ה הַֽמְקַנֵּ֥א אַתָּ֖ה לִ֑י וּמִ֨י יִתֵּ֜ן כָּל־עַ֤ם יְהוָה֙ נְבִיאִ֔ים כִּי־יִתֵּ֧ן יְהוָ֛ה אֶת־רוּח֖וֹ עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃
Two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, had remained in camp; yet the spirit rested upon them—they were among those recorded, but they had not gone out to the Tent—and they spoke in ecstasy in the camp. A youth ran out and told Moses, saying, “Eldad and Medad are acting the prophet in the camp!” And Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ attendant from his youth, spoke up and said, “My lord Moses, restrain them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD put His spirit upon them!”
This story presents something that may challenge traditional understandings of prophecy in biblical times. One might have thought that the ability to speak with God was limited to an individual and an individual alone. This is not an entirely unrealistic assumption, look no further than the book of prophets in which each book focuses on a single prophet.
This story has a particularly compelling message. During the time of the greatest prophet in Jewish history there existed prophecy outside of Moses! Rabbi Sack shares a thought, he says that the difference between normal leaders and great leaders is that normal leaders create followers, whereas great leaders create leaders. Moses' exclamation "are you wrought upon my account?!" demonstrates how willing and comfortable Moses was with the existence of parallel prophecy, a task that many of us would find difficult.
With the powerful words of Rabbi Sack's in our ears let us be reinvigorated in our daily lives to create leaders rather than creating followers.