web analytics
August 1, 2015 / 16 Av, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Followership

The idea of critical followership gave rise in Judaism to the world’s first social critics, the prophets, mandated by God to speak truth to power and to summon even kings to the bar of justice and right conduct.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

There is a fascinating sequence of commands in the great “holiness code” with which our parshah begins that sheds light on the nature not just of leadership in Judaism but also of followership. Here is the command in context:

“Do not hate your brother in your heart. Reprove [or reason with] your neighbor frankly so you will not bear sin because of him. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:17-18).

There are two completely different ways to understand the italicized words. Maimonides brings them both as legally binding. Nahmanides includes them both in his commentary to the Torah.

The first is to read the command in terms of interpersonal relations. Someone, you believe, has done you harm. In such a case, says the Torah, do not remain in a state of silent resentment. Do not give way to hate, do not bear a grudge, and do not take revenge. Instead, reprove him, reason with him, tell him what you believe he has done and how you feel it has harmed you. He may apologize and seek to make amends. Even if he does not, at least you have made your feelings known to him. That in itself is cathartic. It will help you to avoid nursing a grievance.

The second interpretation, though, sees the command in impersonal terms. It has nothing to do with you being harmed. It refers to someone you see acting wrongly, committing a sin or a crime. You may not be the victim. You may be just an observer. The command tells us not to be content with passing a negative judgment on his behavior (i.e. with “hating him in your heart”). You must get involved. You should remonstrate with him, pointing out in as gentle and constructive a way as you can, that what he is doing is against the law, civil or moral. If you stay silent and do nothing, you will become complicit in his guilt (i.e. “bear sin because of him”) because you saw him do wrong and you did nothing to protest.

This second interpretation is possible only because of Judaism’s fundamental principle that kol Yisrael areivin zeh bazeh – All Jews are sureties [i.e. responsible] for one another. However, the Talmud (Bava Metzia 31a) makes a fascinating observation about the scope of the command:

One of the rabbis said to Raba: [The Torah says] “hocheach tochiach,” meaning that you shall reprove your neighbor repeatedly [because the verb is doubled, implying more than once]. Might this mean hocheach, reprove him once, and tochiach, a second time? No, he replied, the word hocheach means even a hundred times. Why then does it add the word “tochiach?” Had there been only a single verb I would have known that the law applies to a master reproving his disciple. How do we know that it applies even to a disciple reproving his master? From the phrase “hocheach tochiach,” implying: under all circumstances.

This is significant because it establishes a principle of critical followership. In past essays we have been looking at the role of the leader in Judaism. But what about that of the follower? On the face of it the duty of the follower is to follow, and that of the disciple to learn. After all, Judaism commands almost unlimited respect for teachers. “Let reverence for your teacher be as great as your reverence for heaven,” said the Sages. Despite this the Talmud understands the Torah to be commanding us to remonstrate even with our teacher or leader should we see him or her doing something wrong.

About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”


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.

One Response to “Followership”

  1. its my prayer that we christians and jews must come together regardless of religion differences but still we are one.we learn from u jews and i dont want u jews to get lost as 10 tribes of northern kingdom in 8 centuary BC by eheimiser the father of sancreb the syrian king.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Matt Lee of the Associated Press at the State Department press briefing.
ObameDeal Exposed: It’s not ‘Secret’ from Congress but not in Writing
Latest Judaism Stories
Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

By internalizing the Exodus, it is as if we ourselves were redeemed from Egypt.

Neihaus-073115

Each Shabbos we add the tefilla of “Ritzei” to Birchas HaMazon. In it we ask Hashem that on this day of Shabbos He should be pleased with us and save us. What exactly do we want to be saved from? Before we answer this question, let’s talk about this Friday, the 15th of Av. Many […]

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Amongst the greatest disagreements in Judaism is the understanding of the 1st of the 10 Commandments

Daf-Yomi-logo

The Day He Heard
‘One May Seek Revocation Of A Confimation’
(Nedarim 69a)

The director picked up the phone to Rabbi Dayan. “One of our counselors lost his check,” he said. “Do we have to issue a new one or is it his loss?”

Six events occurred on Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av, making it a festive day in the Jewish calendar.

Why would Moshe Rabbeinu have thought that the vow that disallowed him to enter Eretz Yisrael was annulled simply because he was allowed to conquer and enter the land of Sichon and Og?

Question: When a stranger approaches a congregant in shul asking for tzedakah, should the congregant verify that the person’s need is genuine? Furthermore, what constitutes tzedakah? Is a donation to a synagogue, yeshiva, or hospital considered tzedakah?

Zvi Kirschner
(Via E-Mail)

Snow in Jerusalem! For many New Englanders like me, snow pulls at our nostalgic heartstrings like nothing else can.

Man has conflicting wishes and desires. Man has forces pulling him in competing directions.

Perhaps the admonition here is that we should not trivialize the events of the past by saying that they are irrelevant to the modern Jew.

One must view the settlement of Israel in a positive light. Thinking otherwise is a grievous sin.

Reaching a stronger understanding of what Moses actually did to prevent him from entering the land

Anti-Zionism, today’s anti-Semitism, has gone viral, tragically supported globally & by many Jews

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Amongst the greatest disagreements in Judaism is the understanding of the 1st of the 10 Commandments

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

“When a king dies his power ends; when a prophet dies his influence begins” & their words echo today

Sharing influence is like lighting a candle with another: it doesn’t mean having less; you have more

All agree that Jews ARE different. How? Why? The Bible’s answer is surprising and profound.

Of Chukkim “Satan and the nations of the world made fun.” They may appear irrational & superstitious

Heaven answered Moshe dramatically. He was proved right. End of revolt. End of story- Not at all…

There’s no obligation TO wear tzitzit; opting to wear them symbolizes free acceptance of the mitzvot

Sadly, we’re no longer an edah; We’ve fissured and fractured: Orthodox & Reform; religious & secular

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/followership/2014/04/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: