Responsibility Is Seeking Its Owners

It is no wonder that responsibility is now seeking its owners. It is simply passing over the heads of our leaders; it is high and they are as low as grasshoppers.

Among the failures that are openly scattered about for all to see, the question of responsibility arises: Who is responsible for the failure that involves financial crimes, not to mention crimes involving human life; how far up should responsibility climb, and where should it stop; who is obliged only to give an accounting, and who is legally obligated and has to answer fully for his deeds?

Responsibility, as has already been explained, is not blame, and that is clear. The minister of transportation is not to blame when a plane falls from the sky in the middle of the night, or when two trains collide in the middle of the day. Only a metaphorical Japanese minister resigns even when he is not to blame.

The question of responsibility becomes much more acute when it comes to a deceptive and disappointing war, or to a government system that was rotten to the core: Who is supposed to pay, for example, the price of the fruitless Lebanon war - just the chief of staff, or also his superiors, the prime minister and the defense minister; and who is supposed to pay with his own head for a police force that has become bankrupt and lost the public's confidence?

Israel has developed a tradition of shirking and evading, and those responsible flee from their responsibility; it continues to chase them, but doesn't catch up with them. Very important people have even managed to flee upward. The culture of flight is known in public as the "gate-keeper's syndrome"; the bodies of the gate-keepers are lying here, in a very, very long row. And the gate-keeper is not necessarily the soldier standing guard at the gate of the battalion - he can be the commander of a division.

A few days ago I was invited by Ascolot, part of the Open University, to speak about "Moses as a Leader." It's very fortunate that occasionally one is asked to lecture, to teach and to write. Otherwise there would be no opportunity for rethinking and for replying to questions a person asks himself. I had no choice, so I started to think - and eureka! I found it! Finally, I believe, the answer to the question of responsibility has been found.

From Moses to all the Moishes, there was no one like Moses, who was a highly gifted leader. And he of all people was punished with the full severity of the law. He was sentenced to die on the mountain, and not to enter the Promised Land. Is there any more severe punishment for someone who took his people from slavery to freedom? And what exactly was he guilty of, to deserve such a fate?

Moses was not guilty of anything, he was not involved in any transgression; on the contrary: "And there arose no other prophet in Israel like Moses." Nor was it time for him to die, since "his eye was not dim nor his natural force abated." And nevertheless he died before his time, he saw the land only from afar, and his place of burial is not known to this day.

And that is the answer to the question of responsibility, and the text explains it well: "Because you transgressed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Merivat-Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, because you sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel."

Moses was chosen to lead a nation that was nothing but a rabble; for 40 years to lead a community that was composed for the most part of whiners and nudniks, in whom any incidental difficulty in the desert aroused a longing for the fleshpots and a desire for a Golden Calf. This group of defeatists and complainers angered Moses, and he was furious with them. But the fact remains that the leader did not succeed in changing the characteristics of the followers, the nation remained a rabble, and Moses was found guilty through no fault of his own. Responsibility obligates a person even when he is not to blame.

It is no wonder that responsibility is now seeking its owners. It is simply passing over the heads of our leaders; it is high and they are as low as grasshoppers.