MoTAS Shabbat D’Var Torah 1/29: The Model of Leadership

Parasha Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23)  – D’var Torah

I’m in the back half of my last term as President of the Men of TAS, and I’d like to share a secret with you about leadership in this organization. In fact, it really is a secret to leadership in any organization. It is a secret I’ve used not only for the Men of TAS, but in my conference leadership activities and those activities at work where I’ve taken a leadership role. This evening, I’m going to share that secret with you.

First, surround yourself with good people.

Second, delegate what you can to those people, so you don’t have to do it all.

Third, trust in those people to do it right, and let those to whom you have delegated work know that you have confidence in them.

Now, let me let you in on a little secret about that secret: It’s not a secret, but advice from a wise father-in-law.

In the first chapter of this week’s Torah Portion, Yitro, we learn how Moses’ Father-in-Law, Jethro, brought Moses’ wife and two sons out to Moses’ encampment, just before Moses was to receive the 10 commandments (which is also in this Torah portion). Jethro observes Moses and all that he does for the people of Israel. In particular, he sees Moses spending hour upon hour settling disputes and making judgments for the people. Jethro turns to Moses, and asks him, “Why do you act alone, while all the people stand about you from morning until evening?”. Moses’ response is that all the people come to him to get the answers, large and small. He says, “When they have a dispute, it comes before me, and I decide between one person and another, and I make known the laws and teachings of God.”

That is quite a lot of work. Moses had a large risk of something we in leadership know very well, burnout.

Jethro saw this potential, and it here that he gave his wise advice: “The thing you are doing is not right; you’ll surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.  Now listen to me. I will give you counsel: You represent the people before God: you bring the disputes before God, and enjoin upon them the laws and the teachings, and make known to them the way they are to go and the practices they are to follow. You shall also seek out from among all the people capable men who fear God, trustworthy men who spurn ill-gotten gain. Set these over them as chiefs of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and let them judge the people at all times. Have them bring every major dispute to you, but let them decide every minor dispute themselves. Make it easier for yourself by letting them share the burden with you. If you do this — and God so commands you — you will be able to bear up; and all these people too will go home unwearied.”

In other words, Jethro was telling Moses to be the best type of leader: One who sets the direction for the organization. A leader that tells the group both the strategic long-term goal and the tactical goal – how to get there. A leader that finds good people, encourages them to be leaders and to grow, and a leader who delegates to those trusted subordinates the ability to make decisions on their own, and to bring the major issues to him.

There’s a key line to remember in Jethro’s words: “For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” What makes MoTAS strong – and what ensures its continuity – is men working together. This year we’ve seen numerous times where the traditional point person for an activity has been unavailable. It hasn’t been a problem. Other men have stepped up, taking the leadership role, and made the activity happen.

Key to leadership is delegation. I learned long ago during the years when I was General Chair of the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference: find good people, make them subcommittee chairs, and let them do their jobs. You don’t have to answer every question. That’s what I’ve been doing with MoTAS: I’ve found great people to coordinate our activities: Bob Levine and Sports Squares and the MoTAS Shabbat, Barry Mann and the Golf Tournament, Frank Soronow and our food service activities, Dave Friedman and our Mens Hangouts, Mike Thornhill and the Mens Seder, Scott Yollis and our Monthly Breakfasts, Roger Lowe and our finances, Steve Zidell and the Yom HaShoah candles … I’d list even more, but I need to keep this short. They do all the hard work. They deserve the credit.

Whether you are new to MoTAS, or a long time regular: I encourage you to step up to be a leader – and to recognize that you have leadership within you. The secret is in the people with whom you surround yourself.

State of MoTAS/Intro to Man of the Year

We have leaders  at Temple Ahavat Shalom: our clergy, who we thank for leading this service; our congregational leaders, who lead us forward with wisdom and ethics; and the women of the congregation, who through our Sisterhood lead by being there when we need them. I’ve already talked about the many leaders within MoTAS.

All men in Temple Ahavat Shalom are part of the Men of Temple Ahavat Shalom. MoTAS is a leader in the community. MoTAS was the first Men of Reform Judaism (MRJ) brotherhood to institute an inclusive no-dues model: all male members of the congregation are members, no dues required. Subsequently, our model has been adopted by our parent organization, MRJ. Watch your mail for letter on how you can support us in our new approach.

By the way, in the same mailing as the annual appeal, we’ve issued a challenge: We want to raise enough money to fix the refrigerators, freezers, and cooling in the kitchen. We announced a challenge grant of $1,500 – MoTAS will match the first $1,500 raised towards kitchen repairs. We were a leader again: an anonymous member of MoTAS and TAS both stepped up with similar matching grants. Now each of the first $1,500 raised will be matched by three additional dollars. You’ll find forms at the Oneg or in your mailbox.

The first step towards leadership is participation. Join MoTAS in an activity. You can learn about all our activities in the MoTAS Weekly mailing that goes to all male members of the congregation – if you do not get it, please let Aaron Solomon know so he can fix the mailing list. You can also learn about MoTAS activities on our webpage: (simply take the congregation’s webpage,, and insert “dash” motas to give You can also friend us on Facebook. You can participate in fundraisers at whatever level is comfortable – the important thing is that you joined us in the effort.

We also want the men in the congregation to step up to leadership. Volunteer to run an activity; volunteer for office; volunteer to take on a responsibility for the organization.

Our volunteers are very important to us. Since 1999 the regional Men of Reform Judaism has recognized men of the year from every congregation in the region, and in support of this, every year the Men’s organization at TAS has recognized one of our own as Man of the  Year. Here is a list of our past Men of the Year – if you are present, please stand: Robert Levin, Brian Morgen, Howard Miller, Ben Tenn, Gordon Lester, Chuck Mondrus, Mel Janis, Robert Ingrum, Jerry Hilecher, Joe Blachman, Brian Hatkoff, Michael Doner, Joel Lowell, Al Lapides, Mike Thornhill, Scott Yolis and Steve Zonis and last year’s honoree, Bob Levine. At this point, I invite up Bob to introduce our 2016 recipient—someone we are recognizing for his leadership. Our winner will recognized at the regional Man of the Year dinner to be held on Saturday, March 5th, at Temple Sholom in the city of Santa Ana, down in Orange County. We will shortly have a signup sheet available and on our website for those who want to attend.

Now I pass the talking stick to Bob.

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