web analytics
August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Taking Responsibility: A Religious Perspective


With the release of the Winograd Commission report, the question whether Prime Minister Olmert will resign has dominated Israeli news. A large rally of his opponents took place in Tel Aviv demanding that he accept the report’s critique of his conduct of last summer’s Lebanon war and step down. Some ideological leaders from both the Left and the Right did not participate in the demonstration – the rightists arguing that the organizers of the rally were not against Olmert’s ideology, the leftists fearing his successor would not share theirs.

I believe that in the Jewish religious tradition, accepting responsibility is the fundamental quality required for leadership. In the biblical description of the struggle between Joseph and his brothers, Joseph, the visionary, becomes the vice-ruler of Egypt. Yet when Jacob blesses his children he proclaims the descendants of Judah to be the future kings of Israel. The qualities shown by Judah in the story outweigh the open leadership of Joseph.

Judah makes serious mistakes. He is the originator of the plan to sell his brother. In the account of his relationship with his daughter-in-law Tamar he does not keep his promise nor does he act morally. In each situation, however, he accepts responsibility. Judah publicly acknowledges that Tamar has been more righteous than he.

In order to get his father Jacob’s permission to allow the brothers to take Benjamin with them to Egypt, Judah takes responsibility to ensure that Benjamin will return safely. When Joseph accused Benjamin of theft and demanded that he become his slave, Judah stepped forward and was willing to pay the consequence of his guarantee. He offered himself as Joseph’s slave in his youngest brother’s place.

Jacob in his blessings proclaims a double portion for Joseph. But Judah’s quality of accepting responsibility for his mistakes and being prepared to accept the consequence of that responsibility is recognized as more fundamentally significant than Joseph’s dreams and his demonstrated talent in running a country.

This theme is understood by the rabbis of the Talmud to be the explanation for the contrasting fate of the families of the Israelite kings David and Saul. After defeating Amalek, Saul, the first king of Israel – against the explicit command of the prophet Samuel – saves the life of the Amalekite king Agag. Criticized by the prophet, Saul is not prepared to accept responsibility for his failure. His initial reaction is to blame the people for his own decision to ignore the charge of the prophet.

David, Saul’s successor, when confronted by the prophet Nathan for his personal behavior with Batsheva, immediately admits his wrongdoing. Though the Talmud finds technical justification for David’s apparent sin, it sees in his willingness to acknowledge guilt the indication that he is worthy of retaining his kingdom. David’s descendants are the permanent rulers of Israel. The future Messiah will come from the family of David.

Jewish tradition neither demands nor expects perfection from Jewish leaders. To be human is to err. “There is no righteous person on this earth who does only good and never sins.” What is critical is how he reacts when he inevitably makes a mistake.

When the Bible describes different types of individuals who come with a sin offering, which is brought for an accidental violation, a subtle distinction is introduced in the case of the prince. Instead of the word for “if he sins,” the term “when” is used.

Rashi, based on the Talmud, comments that the root aleph shin reish, which means “when,” also expresses the term for “praise.” Praised is the generation whose political leader admits his mistakes. Rashi concludes, “how much more so when he takes responsibility for intentional acts.”

Political judgments are complex. Lack of requisite knowledge and responsibility makes it easy to criticize decisions taken. Trust, however, can only exist for a leader who has the appropriate character traits. Foremost among them is accepting responsibility.

About the Author: Rabbi Yosef Blau is mashgiach ruchani at Yeshiva University and an advocate for survivors of abuse.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Taking Responsibility: A Religious Perspective”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ISIS in Quneitra
Updates from Kuneitra, Syria [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reviewing maps on the Golan Heights.

The bad news is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the Syrian Golan. The good news is that every terrorist in Syria is killing each other.

TorahScroll AoT17

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

Troodler-082914

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

Eisenstock-082914

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

We risk our lives to help those who do what they can to kill to our people .

Twain grasped amazingly well the pulse of the Jewish people.

The entertainment industry appears divided about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

More Articles from Rabbi Yosef Blau
YU-011014

For change to become permanent it has to become internalized through new behaviors. Mitzvot have to be observed regularly.

Blau-060713

The welfare of the child requires that every allegation be investigated.

With the release of the Winograd Commission report, the question whether Prime Minister Olmert will resign has dominated Israeli news. A large rally of his opponents took place in Tel Aviv demanding that he accept the report’s critique of his conduct of last summer’s Lebanon war and step down. Some ideological leaders from both the Left and the Right did not participate in the demonstration – the rightists arguing that the organizers of the rally were not against Olmert’s ideology, the leftists fearing his successor would not share theirs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/taking-responsibility-a-religious-perspective/2007/05/09/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: