I had the immense honour this week of participating in the induction service of the new Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force. One of the qualities that struck me about the incoming chief, was his sense of humility. In his speech, he mentioned one of his primary goals was to bring out the best in every member of his force. I thought to myself: “This is great leadership. His focus is on those he serves”.

In fact, his message could have been taken directly from our Parasha this week. We will read about the “test of staffs” conducted amongst those who contested Aharon’s place as High Priest. Hashem instructed each tribe to take a staff and inscribe upon it the name of its tribal leader; with Aharon’s name being written for the tribe of Levi. These staffs were placed overnight in the holy Sanctuary and in the morning they were removed for all to see. Behold! The staff of the tribe of Levi had blossomed and even began to bud fruit. This proved once and for all that the tribe of Levi merited to serve in G-ds temple and Aharon was the rightful leader.

Yet, what message is this strange story supposed to impart?

Perhaps it’s this. A leader, the Torah is telling us, is someone who can take a dead stick and make it sprout. In other words, in situations and in people where others only see hopelessness and failure, a leader will see vitality and potential. This, G-d was saying, is the primary quality that the High Priest must have as the nation’s spiritual leader. The ability to turn lifeless sticks into blossoming plants. 

How often do we look at those around us, or ourselves with apathy or with a lack of respect or capability? Perhaps its time we began to look for that explosive vitality that is inside each and every person and find a way to bring it out.

Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman