My portion of Emor talks a lot about leadership qualities – especially those that were held by the priests – the Cohanim. The list here focuses on appearance but most of Jewish tradition places the focus on other qualities too. That broader list would include not losing your cool, keeping calm and taking responsibility. For me, two qualities of leadership are by far the most important: decisiveness and compassion. Both of these qualities have helped me especially in my chosen position on the baseball diamond: catcher.
I love catching for a number of reasons. The catcher is at the center of all the action; the ball always comes to me. I’m in every play. I have to make instant decisions about what pitch to call, about what base to cover, who fields the grounder or catches the pop up, and also what base to throw to; I always have to have my eyes on the game and my focus on the entire field.
As a catcher, I also have to care about my teammates, to show them compassion. For example, when my pitcher throws a home run ball it’s my job to go to the mound and tell him, it’s ok, you’ll get it next time, and tell him that was a great pitch. Most of the time it’s a lousy pitch, but I keep that to myself.
As a catcher, I have to be a coach on the field, giving lots of advice even when people aren’t asking for it.
Aside from baseball, there are other aspects of life that require the same leadership qualities of decisiveness and compassion. Which brings me to my mitzvah project.
Last fall when Hurricane Sandy hit our region those leadership qualities came into play. We lost heat for a week, but even so, we realized that things were much worse for people living on the coast. So we knew we had to do something.
Rather than waiting for someone else to take action, we decided to take matters into our own hands, by collecting items such as food, clothes, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. We loading up a U-Haul and brought it down to the Rockaways.
We didn’t just do it once. In all, I made three trips, and my mom made two additional trips.
The experience was unforgettable. As we were driving there, for example, just looking out the car window was devastating because of all the destruction that Sandy brought to these innocent people, houses, and lives.
We drove from house to house to offer people these supplies. People were so happy and thankful about what we were providing them with. And they weren’t taking items that they didn’t need. They were taking the items that they really needed to help themselves.
We dropped off the rest of the supplies at a community hall located in a church. When adults walked in, I would ask if they had any kids, and if they did I would ask what they might need for them. And then I would walk around to the tables for clothes, shoes, diapers, toys, and food, etc. and bring the items over to them.
I did this three times. I hope I’ll never have to do it again. But if there is a need, I’ll be there. I’ve learned not to wait at times like those, because the need so great.
Compassion and decisiveness were necessary then, and they were also qualities that were held by my Aunt Liz, of blessed memory. I’m proud to be named for her.
As I become a Bar Mitzvah today, I hope that I’ll be able to take these leadership qualities that are found in Jewish tradition, and apply them to my life.
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