By Rabbi Label Lam
They assembled against Moshe and Aaron, and said to them, "You take too much
upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and HASHEM is in
their midst. So why do raise yourselves above the HASHEM's assembly?"
Moshe heard and fell on his face. He spoke to Korach and to all his
company, saying, "In the morning, HASHEM will make known who is His, and who
is holy, and He will draw [them] near to Him, and the one He chooses, He
will draw near to Him. (Bamidbar 16:1-5)
In the morning, HASHEM will make known: Night is a time of drunkenness for
us, and it is improper to appear before Him. His real intention was to
delay, with the hope that they might retract [their opposition]. - [Midrash
Tanchuma 5] (Rashi)
Here in our holy Torah we are treated here to a very useful strategy for
leaders and everyone else too. Some call it, “the 24 hour rule”. Others have
advised counting to 10! In any case, instead of reacting or overreacting
spontaneously, Moshe chose a delay tactic so cooler heads would prevail. It
may be that simple! This is a way to promote peace! Wait till the light of a
new day evaporates the fog last night’s drunken misperception. Moshe did not
run away from the problem but neither did he confront when it was woefully
impractical to do so. The only hope was to wait for dawn “and in morn HASHEM
will make known”. How times it happens that we don’t even remember what
excited us 24 hours later!? How courageous and wise it is then not to make
that angry phone call, blast that bombastic bombshell of an email, or send
that vicious letter until the dust of confusion has settled.
To illustrate, here’s a piece of American history and an example of a
leadership in action, from “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” by
Dale Carnegie. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought during the first three
days of July 1863. During the night of July 4, Lee began to retreat
southward while storm clouds deluged the country with rain. When Lee reached
the Potomac with his defeated army, he found a swollen, impassable river in
front of him, and a victorious Union Army behind him. Lee was in a trap. He
couldn't escape. Lincoln saw that. Here was a golden, heaven-sent
opportunity-the opportunity to capture Lee's army and end the war
immediately. So, with a surge of high hope, Lincoln ordered Meade not to
call a council of war but to attack Lee immediately. Lincoln telegraphed his
orders and then sent a special messenger to Meade demanding immediate
action. And what did General Meade do? He did the very opposite of what he
was told to do. He called a council of war in direct violation of Lincoln's
orders. He hesitated. He procrastinated. He telegraphed all manner of
excuses. He refused point-blank to attack Lee. Finally the waters receded
and Lee escaped over the Potomac with his forces.
Lincoln was Lincoln was furious, "What does this mean?" Lincoln cried to his
son Robert. Great God! What does this mean? We had them within our grasp,
and had only to stretch forth our hands and they were ours; yet nothing that
I could say or do could make the army move. Under the circumstances, almost
any general could have defeated Lee. If I had gone up there, I could have
whipped him myself."
In bitter disappointment, Lincoln sat down and wrote Meade this letter. And
remember, at this period of his life Lincoln was extremely conservative and
restrained in his phraseology. So this letter coming from Lincoln in 1863
was tantamount to the severest rebuke. “My dear General, I do not believe
you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee's escape. He
was within our easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection
with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be
prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how
can you possibly do so south of the river, when you can take with you very
few-no more than two-thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be
unreasonable to expect and I do not expect that you can now affect much.
Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of
it.” …Meade never saw that letter! Lincoln never mailed it! It was found
among his papers after his death.
How much more powerful are the words that are not said!
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.