The Parsha begins with the mitzvoth of the first fruits and the completion of the tithe cycle. These are offerings of the first fruits in gratitude for ‘the land and the material wealth derived from it’.
In the middle section Moshe and his followers take an oath of allegiance endorsing the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. If they keep to the rules of the Torah Hashem will look after them and ‘place them high above all the nations’. Then, as they cross the Yarden into the ‘land flowing with milk and honey’, all of Yisrael proclaim their acceptance of His covenant by inscribing ‘all the words of this Teaching’ onto twelve stones, in preparation for the ceremony of the Blessings and the Curses soon to take place between the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal.
In the final section we have the the ceremony itself, usually referred to as the Tochacha. In no uncertain terms we learn what will happen to the Jewish people if they do not adhere to Hashem’s rules, or fail to live up to His expectations. It is not pleasant and traditionally this section is read more quickly and quietly than normal.
The Parsha concludes with the beginning of Moshe’s final presentation to his followers as he recaps the journey they have been on together since their departure from slavery in Egypt, as proof of Hashem’s protection, past, present and future.
Much of this Parsha is not easy listening. Moshe is old, tired and knows he is approaching the end of his life. Yet those present listen intently, as we do today, and in many ways I am surprised. What is it about the style of Moshe’s leadership that people were still prepared to hear him out?
Trust in many of today’s leaders is almost non existent. Particularly in the public sector those at the top appear to have lost connection with front line staff and do not understand, or are not interested in, the core function of the organisation. We can see it in all levels of Government, in the Post Office (where managers were so proud of their Fujitsu contract that they wouldn’t listen to the sub-postmasters and persecuted them instead), or most shockingly at Chester Hospital (where the concerns of nurses and Consultants were ignored).
Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks zt’’l once asked ‘what is the most important attribute of a great leader?’. The answer he gave was ‘their followers, as without them, they have no one to lead’.
Clearly those assembled with Moshe trusted him and were prepared to listen and learn. I believe they did this not only because they respected him, but because he respected them.