A simple utterance has important call

It’s something of a disconcerting commentary on contemporary life, but it often seems that more and more good and highly capable people among us appear to shy away from the many opportunities for leadership that arise.

“I know it’s important,” many tend to say, “but just do me a favor by finding someone else to address and take care of it all.”

At one time or another, all of us have wondered why anybody in his or her right mind would ever want to be subjected to the constant scrutiny and continual passing of judgment that election to office or appointment to leadership positions too often bring.

The book of Isaiah, however, encourages even the meekest among us, to shy away from our reluctance and step up to the plate instead.

It recounts that one day as Isaiah was dutifully ministering inside the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, God suddenly and unexpectedly appeared to him seated on what scripture describes as “a high and lofty throne.”

There, angelic beings — each with six wings we are told — flew by in ministering attendance, proclaiming each to the other for all to hear, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of God’s glory.”

At that, the doorposts all around Isaiah began to shake, and immediately, the prophet was overcome by his sense of panic and fear. “Woe is me,” he cried aloud, “for now I am doomed,” for as we are taught in the book of Exodus, not even Moses could look upon the presence of God and live.

But just then as if to immediately calm and allay his trepidation, one of the angelic creatures flew right up to Isaiah, ritually purifying him in God’s sacred presence by expiating his sin.

Then from that lofty throne on high, God bellowed out the question that we all must seriously ponder each and every day, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

And meekly but in all sincerity, Isaiah accepted that challenge, stepping up to the plate by responding, “Here I am, Lord, send me!”

In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon wisely and insightfully wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun,” and our own times some three thousand years later — with all of its judgmental scrutiny — is no different than any of the past.

For long ago in the wilderness, God forewarned Moses and Aaron saying, “My children are obstinate, ill-tempered, and troublesome. In assuming leadership over them, expect to be cursed and even stoned by them,” and, at times, cursed and stoned, scrutinized and judged they were.

In truth, our challenges today are just as difficult and perplexing as any of the past, and they are definitely not simply issues and/or problems for somebodies other than ourselves to address.

Instead, the issues and/or problems of our day are all of our concern; their solutions are all of our responsibilities, and our times are crying for competent and capable individuals — individuals like you and me — to do exactly what Moses and Aaron and Isaiah did long ago, and that is to step up to the plate and confront the challenges of our society and age.

It is said that the journey of each of our lifetimes begins with a single step and often, that single step, like the prophet Isaiah’s is our simple utterance, “Here I am, send me!”

Larry Schlesinger, is rabbi emeritus at Temple Beth Israel.