Followership

When we think of leadership we often run to the image of Nachshon ben Aminadav. According to the Midrash, Nachshon initiated the splitting of the Red Sea by walking in head deep. Going it alone is clearly one style of leadership, but I think Shelach, this week’s Torah portion, offers us another important model for bringing about change. Here we see the twelve spies return to give their report about the Land. After ten give a negative report, we read, ” And Caleb stilled the people toward Moses, and said: ‘We should go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.'” ( Numbers 13:30) At this point the other spies shout Caleb down and instill a deep fear into the people. In response to this we read that:

And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Yefuneh, who were of them that spied out the land, rent their clothes. And they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceeding good land. If the Lord delight in us, then God will bring us into this land, and give it to us–a land which flows with milk and honey. Only rebel not against the Lord, neither fear you the people of the land; for they are bread for us; their defense is removed from over them, and the Lord is with us; fear them not.’ But all the congregation bade stone them with stones, when the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting unto all the children of Israel.” ( Numbers 14: 6-10)

While it took a certain kind of bravery for Caleb and Nachshon to put themselves out there, it takes another kind of leadership to follow. Recently a colleague shared with me a wonderful video that highlights the importance of being the first follower. Please watch:

In another post I will explore this issue through the lens of the character of Yehudah who both Caleb and Nachshon are  decedents, but for now I want to end by saying that it is noteworthy that it is Joshua and not Caleb who goes on to succeed Moses as the leader of the people. There is what to learn from other styles of leadership. We need to move away from just talking about leadership and also start talking about the significance of followership.

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