web analytics
February 1, 2015 / 12 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


The Sins of a Leader

Rabbi Sacks

A private individual is responsible only for his own sins. A leader is held responsible for the sins of the people he leads – at least those he might have prevented (see Shabbat 54b). With power comes responsibility: the greater the power, the greater the responsibility.

There are no universal rules nor is there any failsafe textbook for leadership. Every situation is different and each age brings its own challenges. A ruler, in the best interests of his or her people, may sometimes have to take decisions that a conscientious individual would shrink from doing in private life. He may have to decide to wage a war, knowing that some will die. He may have to levy taxes, knowing that this will leave some impoverished. Only after the event will the leader know whether the decision was justified, and it may depend on factors beyond his control.

The Jewish approach to leadership is thus an unusual combination of realism and idealism – realism in its acknowledgement that leaders inevitably make mistakes, idealism in its constant subordination of politics to ethics, power to responsibility, pragmatism to the demands of conscience. What matters is not that leaders never get it wrong – that is inevitable, given the nature of leadership – but that they are always exposed to prophetic critique and that they constantly study Torah to remind themselves of transcendent standards and ultimate aims. The most important thing from a Torah perspective is that a leader is sufficiently honest to admit his mistakes; hence the significance of the sin offering.

Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai (Tosefta Baba Kamma, 7: 5) summed it up with a brilliant double entendre on the word “asher” – when a leader sins. He relates it to the word “ashrei” – happy, and says this: “Happy is the generation whose leader is willing to bring a sin offering for his mistakes.”

Leadership demands two kinds of courage: the strength to take a risk, and the humility to admit when a risk fails.

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.

No Responses to “The Sins of a Leader”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Historic Jewish U.S. Civil War period restaurant tokens.
Jewish Money in the Civil War to be Shown in Jerusalem
Latest Judaism Stories
Staum-013015

People often think that all they are missing is “just a little more” and then they can be truly happy.

Torah-Hakehillah-121914

The Midrash is teaching a fundamental message of what it means to be a religious person.

Rabbi Sacks

Torah opposes slavery; G-d desires the free worship of free human beings, yet slavery’s permitted-?!

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

France allowed Islamists to flourish despite their loyalty to Islamic sharia law not French values

Approximately 18 years ago, my uncle called me into his office saying he had an urgent matter to discuss. I didn’t know what he had in mind.

“Where is God?” asked the Kotzker Rebbe “God is not everywhere but only where you let Him enter”

An Explosion In The Trench
‘With A Glowing Hot Knife’
(Yevamos 120b)

Her first tactic was tefillah; she immediately began to recite one perek after another of Tehillim.

When a miracle occurs that transcends nature, Hashem has broken the laws of nature to create the miracle.

“How could you have expected my glasses to be there?” argued Mr. Weiss. “You shouldn’t have to pay.”

Rather than submit to this fate and suffer torture and humiliation, Shaul decided to fall on his sword.

How can the Da’as Zekeinim say this was Hashem’s plan to allow them to become the Torah Nation? We know it was actually a punishment.

A strange midrash of fruit trees surrounding the Nation of Israel as they walked to freedom

Leading by example must be visible, regarding where, when and how-like Nachshon entering the Red Sea

Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, a Ram at Yeshivat Otniel, notes that the verse is suggesting that retelling the story of the Exodus is so important that Hashem is performing ever-greater miracles specifically so that parents can tell their stories to future generations.

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

Torah opposes slavery; G-d desires the free worship of free human beings, yet slavery’s permitted-?!

Rabbi Sacks

Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.

The 5th cup is supported by a 5th expression of Deliverance: “And I will bring you to the land…”

The first recorded instance of civil disobedience is the story of Shifra and Puah, defying Pharaoh

Truthfulness is a fundamental value in Jewish yet truth isn’t its highest value. Peace is. Why so?

Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim over Manasseh had nothing to do with age and everything to do with names

Tamar’s conduct bears an uncanny resemblance to Ruth’s; virtuous outsiders at the margins of society

A Jew is an iconoclast, born to challenge the idols of the age,whatever the idols, whatever the age.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/the-sins-of-a-leader/2014/03/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: