("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
The story goes that sometime, close to a battlefield over 200 years ago, a man in civilian clothes rode past a small group of exhausted battle-weary soldiers digging an obviously important defensive position. The section leader, making no effort to help, was shouting orders, threatening punishment if the work was not completed within the hour.
"Why are you are not helping?" asked the stranger on horseback.
"I am in charge. The men do as I tell them," said the section leader, adding, "Help them yourself if you feel strongly about it."
To the section leader's surprise the stranger dismounted and helped the men until the job was finished.
Before leaving the stranger congratulated the men for their work, and approached the puzzled section leader.
"You should notify top command next time your rank prevents you from supporting your men - and I will provide a more permanent solution," said the stranger.
Up close, the section leader now recognized General Washington, and also the lesson he'd just been taught.
As the Bnei Yisroel stood at the shores of the Yam Suf they thought that they had been boxed in by the advancing armies. They did that which they thought they knew how to do best – cry out to Hashem – and complain. Hashem responded telling Moshe to have the Jews move. Befuddled by how they were to take the risk of jumping into the sea, they began to contemplate – all except for one. For in the moment of opportunity, Nachshon Ben Aminadav took the lead. He didn’t send his tribe in first, or find an underling to take the risk and chance the opportunity. He jumped in first and led the pack. For that, he and his tribe were duly rewarded. Acharai (after me) was his motto and it marked the beginning of true Jewish tribal leadership.
Jewish history until this very day is led by the declaration of Acharai. Unlike soldiers and officers of other armies, the IDF continues to lead, because its officers are out in front, not hiding behind the men.
Sometimes, we feel that the only way to get things done is to complain until the issue is solved by someone else. Children turn to parents to “do it for” them, when “it” is homework, class projects or any difficult task. Parents turn to schools, teachers to parents or supplemental educators and citizens to governments or community structures – to do the work, that we all need to join together in building.
Both Jewish and American history are filled with examples of success that come from heroes who step up to the plate and own their opportunities to grow the community of tomorrow.
What roles can we all play, individually and collectively, to lead and grow together by example?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.