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Dvar Torah - Pekudai

Over the past week, we have been awed by a fantastic show of courage. When Russia invaded Ukraine, a peaceful country on its way to being a Western democracy, the whole world expected it would be over in a day or two. The outcome was unacceptable but seemed unavoidable. Since then, we have witnessed the astonishing bravery of the Ukrainians, led by their young, inexperienced, but incredibly inspiring president, Volodymir Zelensky. It is possible that Ukraine would have resisted without him. We will never know. But it is beyond dispute that Zelensky has rallied his country, and the world, against tyranny.

Leadership is crucial. Good leaders are not as rare as we sometimes think but far less common than we need. Great leaders are genuinely unusual, but they can make an enormous difference when they come. One such leader was Chur. Chur was Moshe and Aaron's nephew. When the Jews came to make and worship the Golden Calf and said to his fellow Jews that they should not commit this terrible act, when they said they would do so anyway, Chur was uncowed and would not move out of their way. He sacrificed his life to protect his people. As a result, G-d chose his grandson to construct the Mishkan, the portable temple where the Jewish people would atone for that terrible sin. Chur's act of leadership and bravery, as futile as it seemed, provided the seed for the eventual return of his people to the path they ought never to have strayed from.

Leadership often comes from unexpected quarters. Sometimes the people who should lead step up to the plate and prove capable. Other times they disappoint, and we need to look for someone new. We tend to rely on others to lead, but the truth is that often we can do so ourselves. Whether we look to Volodymir Zelensky, the (Jewish) president of Ukraine, to Chur, one of our biblical heroes, or someone else for inspiration, let's find in ourselves the courage and the fortitude to lead, to stand against the tide, and in so doing to make the world a freer and better place.

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