FZY's wonderful Central Shlicha, Dagan Livny, looks at what Parshat Noah can teach us about being leaders...
This past weekend, our two Hadracha Courses - Hadracha Aleph & Hadracha Bet, from Manchester, Leeds and London - came together for an incredible HadSem (Hadracha Seminar). Taking inspiration from that weekend, and from the Dvar Torah that I presented at the international Diller Teen Fellows Conference in Montreal last week, here are a few words about the weekend's parsha, and about its links to education and leadership.
This week's parsha was the second of the Torah: Parshat Noah. At the end of Bereshit, G-d discovers that there is so much corruption in the world. In this section, G-d wants to destroy creation and start all over again, and G-d chooses to save one righteous man: Noah.
When I first started to read the parsha, my initial question was: why was Noah build an ark? Firstly, it's G-d we're talking about! G-d is almighty and all-mighty... G-d has just created the whole world. G-d does not need Noah to build an ark... G-d could just call into effect a miracle and it would be much quicker and easier to save Noah. Plus, G-d could then demonstrate power.
Secondly, if Noah is so righteous, surely he deserves more of a reward. But instead, he's put to work building a huge ark, telling everyone about an upcoming flood(!) and going out looking for pairs of animals... The ark takes Noah 120 years, which means that it probably wasn't one of his skills. It looks more like punishment than reward.
The answer, or at least my answer, is education. When you think about it, Noah is going through a very long and meaningful educational process. Noah works hard to achieve something that will have real effect on him and his family. It's a process during which he learns loads of new skills and develops as a person. He is becoming more aware of his strengths and abilities and responsibilities.
At the end of this process, has G-d saved Noah, or has Noah saved himself?
A leader becomes an educator when they realise that it is not always about giving answers, but rather it's about asking the right questions. For me, the job of an educator is not to find the solution for someone else; the job is to facilitate a process that will allow a person to find the solution on her own. The job of an educator is to provide support, but to grant ownership to our learners. For me, it's about empowering other people and inspiring other people. That's what Youth Movements do, and that's why the Hadracha Course is so important to us.
Now, I'm not saying that we should all see ourselves as gods, but we are all made b'tselem elohim, in the image of G-d. If we can take something from this parsha, it is our responsibility as educators and leaders towards the people we interact with. Leading is taking someone from one place to another... but how do we do that? There is a quick and easy path, where we give them all the answers. But a long-term educational process should put the learner at the centre, rather than the educator. Let's encourage her to build her own ark for herself and discover herself along the way.