This past Shabbat we began reading the Book of Numbers. In this book Moses does not have an easy time as leader of our people. Again and again he encounters resistance from the Israelites. They complain. They challenge his leadership.
In the story of the spies in Parashat Shelach Lecha, the people tell Moses they want to go back to Egypt. In Parashat Korach some of the people openly rebel against Moses and Aaron. Korach, a Levite, like Moses and Aaron, criticizes the brothers for elevating themselves into positions of leadership.
Korach wants to take the place of Moses. Korach is fine with the idea of a single Levite leading the people. He just wants it to be a different single Levite, himself.
Korach does not understand the source of Moses' and Aaron’s status. Why should the people listen to Moses? Why should the people trust Moses? God!
Over the centuries many political leaders have claimed that their authority to rule comes from God. They argue that God made them King, therefore the people should listen to them.
In a democracy, individuals achieve high office because people trust them enough to vote for them. Trust replaces faith as the source of authority.
Trust that comes with political office is easily lost. Here in Illinois so many politicians have acted so poorly that many people distrust politicians as a category.
Trust has to be earned. I am not pleased when people say, "Trust me." Don’t say, "Trust me," show me that I can trust you.
Actual trustworthy people do not have to say, "Trust me." People who have earned the trust that comes with their position, do not have to remind people of their position. During his political decline, Richard Nixon said, "I am the President." His need to make that proclamation illustrated that, in fact, he had lost the trust of the American public.
Trust has to be earned every day, in families, in friendships and in religious settings.
When the faculty of the Hebrew Union College gave me the title "rabbi," they were in essence saying, "We trust you." When people call me "rabbi", they express their trust in me. I am aware that I have to be worthy of the title every day.
In a few weeks it will be Father’s Day. That I am the father of three is a biological fact. The trust my children place in me has been earned.
Sometimes those who we thought were our friends disappoint us. We discover that our trust was misplaced or sometimes we disappoint our friends and must work to again earn their trust.
Moses had an advantage we do not have. God could vouch for Moses. We have to let our deeds vouch for us.