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Parshat Devarim

July 24, 2020

Earlier this summer, I participated in the first session of Movement Makers, one of BBYO’s virtual summer leadership experiences. The program was all about learning how to be a leader and building a movement. During one session, we watched a video that hopefully some of you may have seen. The video depicted a small, spread out crowd of people at a music festival. One man started to jump around and dance by himself, not caring about how others around him may have viewed him. Eventually, another man joined in. Soon after that, two more joined. Then some more. Then almost everybody in the crowd was jumping and dancing together. This video shows the action of creating a movement and the fearlessness of the first leader to be able to make the first move.

My takeaway from the video was that the leader is not the only one who has no fear—it’s also the first follower. In fact, I’d say the first follower has to have just as much confidence as the leader if they are willing to get up and dance like no one is watching. The first follower is the first person to acknowledge a movement. When other people see someone gain a partner, they see the movement in a new light. Think about it. If Moses never had any followers, would the Israelites ever even be in Israel again? You always hear “Be a leader, not a follower.” But if it is a cause you feel passionately about that you didn’t start, why wouldn’t you be an ardent follower?

This week’s Parsha is Devarim, the first portion from the book of Deuteronomy. In this section, Moses and the Israelites are on the verge of entering Canaan. Moses knows his death is coming, so he recounts their journey up until this point. This book of the Torah encapsulates the history of the land of Israel. The Jewish people are indigenous to this area, but we soon found ourselves enslaved In Egypt. Moses was the first person to decide to change this and, as leader, he gained a following to take his people back to their homeland.

We live in an age of revolution. Naturally, there have to be some leaders among us. In Parshat Devarim, Moses admits to the Israelites that he cannot bear the burden of leadership alone anymore. Yet it should be easy for Moses to pass on his leadership because "G-d, has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as the stars of the heavens in abundance." Leaders are never alone. If they are alone, who are they leading? Followers are just as important as leaders, for they are the ones who define a movement. In this era of social change and revolution, I think we can relate this to finding something you are passionate about and becoming a part of it—a follower or participant—or maybe even a leader. The least you would be doing is spreading awareness. Help each other. Make waves.

It is never too early to believe in a cause and stand up for it. Learning about something new opens up a world of possibilities. In this age of social change, the importance of learning should be more prevalent than ever. Learning doesn’t stop at school. Personally, I learn things constantly through BBYO that I use in my daily life and teach to my friends who aren’t in BBYO. I even learn things every day from social media. I have found leaders that I admire and listen to the words they have to say. Never stop searching for more knowledge. Speak up for what you believe in. Discover how you can harness the power of words to change the world and see it in a new light.

Shabbat Shalom,
KMR Shlicha, Jessica Daninhirsch

Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors.

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