No Elitist Leadership

Thursday, 18 July, 2019 - 12:40 pm

What is the leadership role of a Rabbi? To please the board… To give a good sermon… To pay attention to the top donors… To teach and inspire the greatest minds of the community…

When G-d tells Moses about his successor as the Rebbe (leader) of the nation of Israel, he frames Joshua as one “who can relate to the spirit of each and every individual.”

Of course he must appeal to the intellectual bent of the scholars. Certainly he must continue to inspire the committed members of the community. He absolutely has to know how to navigate the board and the big donors. But if he forgets about the little guy, the guy who sits in the middle seat of the third to last row of the Shul, then a successor to Moses he is not!

True Rabbinic leadership is reflected in the ability to truly care and engage every person on their level. To the intellectuals it means scholarship. To someone else it is inspiration. To a third it means showing interest in their business affairs. Men, women, and children of all ages, must all feel that the Rabbi understands them and is tuned in to their needs and spiritual interests.

This concept also filters down to all individuals as they prioritize their lives. When we think about the aspects of ourselves to which we pay the most attention in our quest for self-betterment, this same dilemma can arise. We may be tempted to expand our knowledge base and push our minds to the limit of their capacities. We may be tempted to develop our sense empathy or other elements of our emotional character. Along the way, the nitty gritty details of our day to day actions and choices, may fall by the wayside. We become like the Rabbi who only wants to lead the scholars or the wealthy folks. The “little guys” in our lives are the seemingly insignificant opportunities that come our way for choosing what Hashem wants over what might feel good in the fleeting moment.

While scholarship and character development are important, the true test of a person’s growth and devotion to Hashem is at the level of action. A complete person is one who can focus on growing in all areas, while at the same time connecting the dots at the bottom line.  

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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