Balancing Tradition and Vision

Yael Eckstein  |  March 21, 2023

People praying in the streets to the Western Wall in Jerusalem during Yom Kippur

And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.” — Joshua 3:7

What role does tradition play in leadership? This is a question that I think about a lot. From the moment my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, told me that it would be my task to lead The Fellowship after him, I began thinking about this question.

Now you might be wondering why this question is so important. Tradition is a wonderful value, one that I cherish deeply. Tradition dictates that we keep things the same out of respect for those who came before us. And I certainly strive to honor my father and his vision with every decision I make.

But does tradition mean that I should keep things from changing? Of course not. That’s certainly not what my father would have done. After all, as the world changes and new challenges face Israel and the Jewish people, the mission of The Fellowship must respond.

I thought about this issue as I was reading through the Book of Joshua. Joshua was a great leader of Israel. He literally led the Israelites into the Promised Land! But at the same time, he was the successor of Moses, the most revered leader and greatest prophet in the Bible.

Balancing Tradition and Vision

So how did Joshua balance tradition with his own leadership vision? The answer came from God. We read, “And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.’”

I am with you as I was with Moses.” What a simple, yet powerful statement. At the same time as God told Joshua to be confident in his own wisdom — “I am with you” — He also honored Moses, Joshua’s revered teacher. Basically, God was telling Joshua that trusting his own vision and honoring Moses were not in conflict.

Tradition and vision. Effective leadership is not all about breaking through with new ideas. Sometimes the most courageous decision is to keep things as they are. And then there are situations when we actually honor the vision of those who came before us by make necessary changes.

Most importantly, we know we’ve struck the right balance between tradition and vision when we listen to God and when He is with us.

Your Turn:

We are all in leadership positions that require wisdom. Are we honoring tradition? Are we open to necessary change? Let’s pray to God that He be with us so we can strike the right balance between tradition and vision.