web analytics
October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



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 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.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Agam Luria, from a kibbutz in the Jezreel Valley, was identified as one of the four Israelis killed in the Nepal blizzard.
Israeli Sherpa ‘Pony Express’ Saved Hundreds in Nepal Blizzard
Latest Judaism Stories
God-and the world

The creation of the world is described twice. Each description serves a unique purpose.

Questions-Answers-logo

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

Lessons-in-Emunah-new

To the surprise of our protectzia-invested acquaintances, my family has thrived in our daled amos without that amenity, b’ezras Hashem.

Business-Halacha-logo

Shimon started adjusting the branches on the roof. In doing so, a branch fell off the other side of the car and hit the side-view mirror, cracking it.

I, the one who is housed inside this body, am completely and utterly spiritual.

Should we sit in the sukkah on a day that may be the eighth day when we are not commanded to sit in the sukkah at all?

For Appearance’s Sake
‘Shammai Did Not Follow Their Own Ruling’
(Yevamos 13b 14a)

If one hurts another human being, God is hurt; if one brings joy to another, God is more joyous.

I’m grateful to Hashem for everything; Just the same, I’d love a joyous Yom Tov without aggravation.

Bereshit: Life includes hard choices that challenge our decisions, leaving lingering complications.

Rabbi Fohrman:” Great evils are often wrought by those who are blithely unaware of the power they wield.”

The emphasis on choice, freedom and responsibility is a most distinctive features of Jewish thought.

The Torah emphasizes the joy of Sukkot, for after a season of labor, we celebrate our prosperity.

The encounter with the timeless stability of the divine occurs within the Sukkot.

Hashem created all human beings and it should sadden us when Hashem, their Father, does not see nachas from them.

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

The emphasis on choice, freedom and responsibility is a most distinctive features of Jewish thought.

Rabbi Sacks

Sukkot’s duality is that it’s the most universalistic and the most particularistic of all festivals

When we cry from the heart, someone listens; When we cry on Yom Kippur, God hears us.

Who am I? What are the most important things in my life? What do I want to be remembered for? If, as a purely hypothetical exercise, I were to imagine reading my own obituary, what would I want it to say? These are the questions Rosh Hashanah urges us to ask ourselves. As we pray […]

Simply, for Rambam the number 14 (2×7) was his favored organizing principle.

Torah isn’t a theological treatise or a metaphysical system but a series of stories linked over time

We believe that God created each of us, regardless of color, class, culture or creed, in His image.

Judaism is a religion of love but also a religion of justice, for without justice, love corrupts.

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: