Elie Wiesel saw the most horrific sights the human eye could endure. This very individual who refused to marry and have children feeling that it is unfair to bring Jewish children into such a cruel and brutal world ultimately rebuilt his life from the ashes, created a family, and become a spokesman for hope and conscience the world over.

“The only role I sought was that of a witness,” Wiesel wrote. “I believed that having survived by chance, I was duty-bound to give meaning to my survival, to justify each moment of my life.” 

He was one of the great Jewish leaders of our generation.  He taught us that we must always see the possibility for growth and renewal even in the darkest and seemingly lifeless moments of our lives. 

We see this same message in an obscure passage in this week’s Torah portion. After having quashed the Korach rebellion, G-d sets out to prove once and for all what it takes to be a spiritual leader, a High Priest of Israel. Moshe was instructed to take 12 wooden staffs – each engraved with the name of the prince of one tribe – and place it overnight inside the Tabernacle. When they were removed the following morning, the entire nation beheld that Aaron’s staff had blossomed overnight and borne fruit, demonstrating that Aaron was G‑d’s choice for High Priest. 

The message is clear: The primary quality of a Kohen Gadol, or any of us as messengers of G-d, is our ability to transform lifeless sticks into gardens. The real leader is the person who sees the possibility for growth and life where others see only stagnation and lifelessness. I believe we all have this ability. I look forward to seeing you in Shul this weekend for an exciting Shabbat.

I personally want to extend blessings of Mazal Tov to our vice-president Evan and Lauren Koseff and their family on the Bar-Mitzvah of Jacob this week in Shule. May he continue to give his family and our Kehillah much joy and nachat as he seizes his place as a MAN in our community and our people. 

Shabbat shalom!

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

(Don’t forget to participate in the mitzvah of writing a Torah by securing a letter in our new Sefer Torah – details here