Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jewish Leader: It's not about you

What does it take to be a Jewish leader? I've recorded different ideas on the topic over the years, including this blog post (Rabbinic Leadership), this one (Rabbi as Leader and Manager) and this one (You can be right and dead at the same time). But in a discussion at a Yehoshua class yesterday, I was reminded of another facet of Jewish leadership.

In the first chapter of Yehoshua (1:2), G-d tells Yehoshua that He is going to give the land of Israel "to them, to the Children of Israel". There is a redundancy here. What is added by saying both, "to them"; and "to the Children of Israel"? Don Isaac Abarbanel explains that G-d is telling Yehoshua that He is giving Israel to the nation, not its leader. Leaders come and leaders go, and the nation is the essential thing.

In the same chapter (1:17), the tribes of Reuven, Gad and Menasheh pledge loyalty to Yehoshua, but they warn him that they will listen, "only as long as G-d is with you, as He was with Moshe." In other words: We will follow you not because of your personality and identity, but because G-d is with you.

G-d supports the leader only for the sake of the nation. The nation supports the leader only for the sake of G-d. Yehoshua, and any Jewish leader, must understand this key point: It's not about you. The task of the Jewish leader is to enable the Divine summons to inspire each individual Jew, and to enable each individual Jew to respond, to rise, and to shine. The leader who accomplishes both of these things - neither of which is simple! - is a success.

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