In this week's Torah Portion, God tells Moses the procedures the Jewish people must follow if they commit a sin. And if:

"... the entire assembly of Israel shall err ... the elders ... shall lean their hands upon the head of the bull before God..." (Lev. 4:13-15)

 

A LIFE LESSON

If the Jewish nation as a whole commits a sin, the atonement for their actions falls primarily on their leaders. Why is it that the leaders have to make amends for a sin that they never committed? The reason is that oftentimes people in a position of authority believe that one set of ethics applies to them, while there's another set of rules for those that they're leading. But God tells us that if leaders feel this way, they miss the mark of what it means to be a leader.

In the real world, those in any "organization" will always follow the example of those who are in charge. Children pick up all the habits - good and bad - of their parents, employees pick up the behavior of their bosses, and the Jewish people followed the example of those who led them. And when the Jewish people erred, God knew that their behavior was a direct result of the actions being done by those who were leading them. If the people sinned, it was in large part due to the environment that was created by the elders that allowed the sin to foster.

In our own lives, we all play some sort of leadership role. And the behavior of those we lead will always be a direct result of our own behavior. If a child answers the telephone and is told by his parent who is standing right next to him to tell the caller he isn't home, the child then internalizes this behavior. So when the parent tells this child the following week that he or she should never tell a lie, the child now faces a serious internal conflict. On one hand, he wants to listen to his parent. But, on the other hand he also wants to emulate the actions of his parent whom he respects. Does he listen to what he says, or do as he does?

God tells us that people will usually follow actions they see over the words they hear - and this is why the elders had to bring an atonement when the Jewish people committed a sin. God tells us that the reason the people sinned was that the breeding ground for the negative behavior already existed.

People will follow what you do over what you say. If you want to instill a certain type of behavior in others, then create the environment for it to happen. Not by declarations, but by embracing and living the desired behavior yourself.