Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Let my leaders fail!

I did the weekly three-minute parshah video for the kollel this week; hope my cold isn't too obvious:

Here is the quote from Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, Oznayim laTorah for Vayyikra:
יש להליט בדברי חז״ל אלה רעיון מאלף: הנשיא או המנהיג, אם הוא בעל מרץ ומעוף, מחפש תמיד דרכים איך להיטב את מצב עמו או עדתו, ומרוב מעשים יש שהוא טועה ועושה דבר אשר מוטב היה שלא לעשותו; הוא חטא ב״קום זיעשה״, עשה מה שלא היה צריך לעשות, או אם נתבטא בלשון חז״ל — עבר ״על לא תעשה״. חטא כזה מתכפר אם זדונו כרת ע״י קרבן חטאת, שהרי שוגג הוא. לעומת זה יש נשיא או מנהיג, שהוא תמיד מסתפק, אם כדאי לעשות דבר זה או אחר לטובת עמו ועדתו ופן יצא מזה דבר שאינו לטובת העם, ומרוב הזהירות אינו עושה כלום ומזניח את עניני הכלל. ואח״כ כשהוא רואה, ששגג בזה ״שלא עשה״, שלא הקדים את פני הרעה — הרי הוא דומה לעובר על ״מצות עשה״, שקרבנו עולה... ויש, איפוא, למצוא רמז בדרשת חז״ל הנ״ל, שאשרי הדור, שהנשיא שלו, אם שגג באיזה דבר, הרי הוא ״מחייבי ׳חטאות״, היינו שמרוב מרצו ועבודתו לטובת הכלל נכשל פעם ועבר על ״לא תעשה״ על דבר שלא הי׳ ראוי לעשות, ויתרון לנשיא כזה על נשיא ״מלא ספקות״ ומפניהם הוא מזניח את עבודת הציבור, על נשיא ״ממחייבי עולות״

We can unveil in these words of the Sages an instructive ideal: The nasi or leader, if he is a person of energy and alacrity, continually seeks ways to improve the standing of his nation or group. As a result of his many deeds, sometimes he errs and does something when it would have been better had he not acted. He sins with an action, doing what he should not have done. To use the language of the Sages - he violated a 'Lo Taaseh'. for such a sin one atones with a chatat offering, granted that for intentional violation there would be a punishment of kareit, since this is not intentional.

Opposite this is a nasi or leader who is perpetually in doubt whether to do this or something else for the benefit of his nation or group, lest something emerge which does not benefit the nation. Due to his great care, he does nothing and he abandons the needs of the community. Then, when he sees that he erred through inaction, and did not act to prevent bad develops, he is like one who sins by failing to perform an ‘Aseh’, and who brings a korban olah.

There is a hint to this in the lesson of the sages (Horiyyos 10b), “Fortunate is the generation whose nasi, if he has sinned, is among those who are obligated to bring a chatat offering,” meaning that because of his great energy and work for the good of the community he stumbled on occasion and violated a ‘Lo Taaseh’, erring in doing something he ought not to have done. This nasi is greater than a nasi who is full of doubt, such that he abandons the work of the community, a nasi who must bring a korban olah.

The theme is important, beyond the material I could fit into two minutes and thirty seconds. For rabbis in shuls, for teachers and administration in schools, for boards of community institutions like UJA/UJC, Jewish Family and Children Services, JCCs and so on - we need leaders who have the latitude to act on educated instinct, and that latitude can only be granted by communities which are supportive.


  1. This looks like the chicken and the egg. If both our community and our leaders are too timid now, as is too often the case, how do we jump start a process to address pressing issues actively?

  2. Nice drasha - but see rashi on horiyot 10b, if anything it implies the greatness is that someone so great still understands his subservience to HKB"H.
    Joel Rich

  3. your voice is a lot higher than in my imagination. Nice camera presence. :)

  4. Bob-
    Good question. As the gemara put it regarding a related matter - does the leader determine the generation, or vice versa?


    This is me with my deeper voice. It only works for some kinds of divrei torah, though.

  5. RH - thanks for the laugh. :)

    Shabbat Shalom