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December 10, 2016 / 10 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘leader’

When Is A Leader Really A Leader?

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

We know the Torah is truth. Therefore, in order to determine the right path, we have to look for truth in a leader.” – Rabbi Hayim Shimon Wahrman, of Manhattan’s Millinery Center Synagogue


What makes a good leader? Truthfulness.

In Devarim, the Torah states that the best leaders are genuine prophets: “A prophet will Hashem, thy God, raise up unto thee…unto him ye shall listen” (Deut. 18:15). Therefore, because a true prophet is the best leader and a true prophet’s words always become fulfilled, a leader’s most crucial characteristic must be the degree by which his or her predictions, expectations, and pronouncements eventually prove themselves true.

In fact, truthfulness is a requirement for leadership. Consider the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, where a boy, for the sake of attention, cried for help to be saved from a non-existent wolf. Then, when a wolf really did arrive to shadow the boy, all ignored the boy’s cries for help because they assumed he was again acting.

With that social lesson in mind, consider that whenever the words of a leader are proven wrong, such a leader stops, in a de facto manner, being a leader. After all, if any leader were to lie, renege, or even misstep, his or her followers would lose at least a measure of their faith. And whenever any group or nation loses faith in its leader, it is harder for such a leader, even when he or she has plotted a truly good course, to get others to follow his or her commands.

To compensate for this lack of faith, such a tarnished leader must, to harness followers, use physical force or some other inappropriate long-run technique of coercion.

Relatedly, parshat Mattot starts with a divine command directed to the leaders of the tribes (Num. 30:2). Namely, leaders are to keep to their word. One reason this command is first directed to leaders is that, again, if leaders do not keep to their word, they are de facto no longer leaders.

Because leadership will always be fleeting when leaders are unable to make flawless pronouncements, it becomes clear why the Torah deems the best leaders to be true prophets, who never lie and are never wrong when speaking in God’s name. In such prophets one can put one’s complete faith and thereby completely follow.

Actually, as the point of leadership is to take a group of followers to some destination, a true prophet cannot help but be a leader because, via true prophecy, the expected destination is always reached. Conversely, a false or mistaken leader naturally misses the destination and thereby negates the point of leadership.

(I recently had a conversation about this subject with Rebbetzin Gitty Fishelis, eldest granddaughter of gadol hador Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and daughter of Rabbi Dovid Feinstein. She agreed that there is an obvious need for all of Am Yisrael to pray for the return of navuah, prophecy, because without the guidance of genuine prophets, Am Yisrael will invariably make mistakes.)

Similarly, but from another perspective, many accounts in the Tanach relate true but unpopular visions of genuine prophets. In fact, sometimes a prophet with a bitter but necessary message became a victim of the people’s wrath because they did not want to hear hard-to-swallow truths. Nonetheless, it’s always better if a true prophet, no matter how unpopular the message, is the leader. After all, the truth of an unpopular vision will ultimately make itself known, and in the manner of a stitch in time saving nine it’s far better for a society to have been prepared for the difficult eventuality.

Outside the Fifth Avenue entrance of Manhattan’s main public library, a secular institution, there is the following engraved maxim: “But above all things, truth beareth away the victory.” So we see that while this article’s points about leadership have been made primarily in religious terms, they can also be appreciated by secularists and unbelievers.

After all, even those who may not believe in prophets – and thereby think it impossible to achieve a 100 percent accuracy rate – would readily accept that someone whose words are, in the end, demonstrably more true would have a greater claim on leadership.

Even more than secularists or unbelievers, Christians who follow biblical teachings certainly can understand that they – as do God-fearing Jews – have a religious obligation to consider a leader’s most important qualification to be trustworthiness.

Rabbi Chaim Yehudah Gruber

Shimon Peres, a Leader for All Seasons

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

Shimon Peres understood the Biblical verse “to everything there is a season.”

When he was a young man working for David Ben-Gurion, he saw that Israel’s very existence was endangered by the surrounding armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Arabs countries committed to the physical annihilation of the nation-state of the Jewish people. He did more than any other Israeli to prevent that from happening: he developed Israel’s nuclear arsenal, its navy and its military-industrial capacity. In his first book, “David’s Sling,” he described how he went about obtaining the assistance of other countries in allowing Israel to defend itself, using only its own soldiers. Peres would never compromise Israel’s security, even when that meant confronting American leaders who sought such compromise.

But Shimon Peres was also uncompromising in his quest for peace. When Israel became strong enough to defend itself, Peres saw a change in the seasons. He was the first to recognize the reality that a demilitarized Palestinian state would not only be just for the Palestinians, but would be good for the Israelis. He favored peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and, at the time of his death, he was reaching out to Sunni Muslim states to create a coalition against the common enemy Iran.

Shimon Peres was both a man of principle and of pragmatism. He understood that morality, without the strength to defend it, might cause a repetition of the disaster the Jewish people faced during the 1930s and 1940s, when they lacked the strength to defeat the most immoral force in the history of the world.

Alan M. Dershowitz

Hamas Leader Khaled Meshaal’s Mother Dies in Jordan

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

The mother of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal died in Jordan, local media reported.

Meshaal, Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, was born in 1956 in Silwad in Judea and Samaria during the Jordanian occupation. He attended Silwad Elementary School until the 1967 Six-Day War, after which his father moved the family to Kuwait for financial reasons. Mashaal joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1971. He holds a bachelor of science degree in Physics from Kuwait University.

David Israel

Frank Seddio For Kings County (Brooklyn) Democratic County Leader

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

In the Democratic primary election on September 13, The Jewish Press endorses attorney Frank Seddio for Democratic district leader in the 59th Assembly District in Brooklyn.

For years he has served as Brooklyn’s Democratic county leader – county leaders are chosen by their district leader colleagues – and has been a larger than life presence on the Brooklyn political scene. He and his family have been key to the remarkable renaissance the borough has enjoyed in recent years.

He has been a stalwart ally of the Jewish community, staunchly supporting the reelection of Judge Leon Ruchelsman, who enjoys a stellar judicial reputation, and the elevation of Judge Noach Dear to the Supreme Court bench, as well other Jewish candidates.

He has served as a judge on the Surrogate’s Court and continues as a successful practicing attorney. He was recently elected president of the Brooklyn Bar Association. From his perch as county leader he has met with much success in bringing Brooklyn’s various political delegations together for the common good. He is also widely lauded for his accessibility and loyalty.

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Breslow Leader Confesses Rape, Plotted Murder of Disciple

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Israeli police have been trying over the past three years to lay their hands on recordings of Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s alleged confessions of rape. On Tuesday night, Israel TV played those recordings, which will play a major role in convicting Berland, who has evaded Israeli police around the globe for three years, of four counts of rape and one count of an attack against the husband of one of the women who had launched a complaint against him.

The recordings were made four years ago by two of Berland’s followers, who were ordered at the time to burn all the incriminating material, because “you don’t cooperate with police.” But despite the order, someone has kept MP3 recordings of Berland describing one act of rape against one complainer.

Berland’s discussion is “purely” halakhic, concerning whether or not the raped woman is obligated to divorce her husband on the grounds of her adultery. “She was absolutely raped, beginning to end,” Berland is heard saying, meaning that the sexual liaison was not her responsibility and therefore she is not obligated to seek a divorce. “She is permitted to her husband without any doubt,” Berland said. “She had no understanding of what was going on, she has no need for any get-religious divorce.”

Berland further explained that what the woman had performed with him was a divine mission to serve in the role of his wife, and so she cannot be accused of doing it out of her own free will.

A different recording that has surfaced, this one a video, is even more disturbing than the view of a religious Jewish cult leader expecting the wives of his followers to satisfy his sexual needs as a divine assignment. The video show Berland sitting, wrapped in a talit, at a Melaveh Malka-Saturday night meal, with his followers, discussing the planting of an explosive charge to murder a former follower who reported on Berland to the police.

The discussion between Berland and a member of his cult of recruiting an expert in planting explosives from among their members (his name happens to be Nachman, which should cause a certain Hassidic teacher to roll in his grave many times over), and to send that moser-snitch “straight to Gan Eden.”

Viewing this plotting session of a murder, one is reminded of similar scenes involving mobsters and Hamas terrorists, except the godfather is in a talit and the gangsters wear shtreimlach.


Rabbi Maurice Lamm – Prominent Spiritual Leader, Author, And Teacher – Passes Away

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Rabbi Maurice Lamm, a major presence in the American Orthodox rabbinate in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as a teacher to hundreds of thousands through his immensely popular Jewish books, died last week. He was 86.

Rabbi Lamm authored The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, on the laws and practices of burial, shiva and mourning, which has sold over 750,000 copies since its first printing in 1969.

Additionally, he wrote The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage, The Power of Hope, Becoming a Jew, and Consolation. Each of these was also a best-seller in the Jewish world.

From 1972 to 1985 Rabbi Lamm served as head rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, Calif., one of the largest Orthodox synagogues in America. He also connected with and influenced the Orthodox community at large through his affiliation with the Rabbinical Council of America, the journal Tradition and several other boards and organizations. He was also recognized as a first-class orator, lecturing abroad and overseas, from Israel to Australia to several countries in Europe.

Maurice Lamm was born in 1930, the second of four children to Sam and Peppy Lamm in Brooklyn. Lamm studied for many years at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, and then at Yeshiva University under Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, from whom he received semicha in 1954. Later in life he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University, from which he held bachelors and masters degrees.

Rabbi Lamm was very close with Rabbi Soloveitchik, of whom he frequently asked many halachic questions. Rabbi Lamm used to recall that when he would ask Rabbi Soloveitchik a particularly strange question, the latter would reply, “They do things in an interesting way in California.”

Rabbi Lamm married Shirley Friedman, the daughter of Rabbi and Mrs. M. Friedman of New Haven, Connecticut, in 1955.

After receiving semicha, Rabbi Lamm served as a chaplain first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. After his discharge he served as rabbi in Puerto Rico and then Floral Park, New York. It was there that Rabbi Lamm started his writing career by publishing And I Shall Glorify Him, an 89-page companion work to Herman Wouk’s This Is My God.

In 1966 Rabbi Lamm assumed the pulpit at the Hebrew Institute of the Bronx. It was around this time that scores of Orthodox Jews were moving out of the South Bronx, to Riverdale and elsewhere. The Lamms moved out as well, to Yonkers, but Rabbi Lamm continued to walk to the Hebrew Institute every Shabbos.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Welfare Board asked Rabbi Lamm to became its field director of military chaplains with the civilian equivalent of major general. He started traveling to meet, bring aid, and comfort and teach U.S. chaplains in countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines.

In 1972, Beth Jacob of Beverly Hills came calling, and the family – Shirley and Maurice and their three children, David, Judith, and Dodi – moved to Los Angeles. The Lamms bought a home in Beverly Hills and fixed it up. Shirley felt they should purchase their own home rather than have the shul buy it for them. She decorated it herself. One of their first guests was Elie Wiesel, who came to lecture at a shul event.

After 13 years at Beth Jacob, during which time the synagogue’s membership rose from 400 to more than 1,000, Rabbi Lamm established The Desert Synagogue in Palm Springs, Calif., where he served as the rabbi for several years. He then retired from the rabbinate to the East Coast. But his career continued to thrive; for many years he held the chair in professional rabbinics at YU’s rabbinical school, RIETS, as well as serving on the faculty at Stern College for Women. He also continued to write and publish books. His last one, Consolation – in some ways a sequel to The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning – has been one of his most critically acclaimed and popular volumes.

Shlomo Greenwald

Redeeming Relevance: Parsha Bemidbar: Follow Which Leader?

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Anyone who has spent time on committees in the business world or in communal life can tell you that the person initially designated as the leader of a particular team is not always the one who exercises the most influence on the group. Sometimes, a leader emerges from the group and gains the confidence of its members. He or she may not assume the formal role of leader of the team but that is of secondary importance; the person’s capability to steer the group’s work to a productive end is the best hallmark of true leadership.

The Torah recognizes this phenomenon and brings it to our attention in a subtle fashion in the Book of Bemidbar, through the way it lists the names of the different tribes.

In this week’s parsha, Moshe is instructed to enlist the head of each tribe and then to conduct a census of the men of each tribe who were old enough for military service. The first head of tribe listed is Elitzur ben Shedeiur of the tribe of Reuven and the first tribe counted is Reuven, the first born of the tribes (Bemidbar 1:1). The formally designated tribe is again listed first much later in the census in Parshat Pinchas (Bemidbar 26:5).

Contrast this with the accounting of the placement of the tribes in the camp of Israel, further in Parsha Bemidbar, in which the tribe of Yehudah is listed first. This change is echoed in the last tribal listing in the Book of Bemidbar, of the princes of the different tribes who are designated to take possession of the land of Israel; here too, Yehudah takes precedence with its prince, Calev, listed first (Bemidbar 34:19).

As students of the Torah, we are aware of the broader context of these shifts in prominence of the two tribes – how it was sons of the tribe of Reuven who helped lead Korach’s rebellion against Moshe (Bemidbar 17:1) while it was Calev who, alone with Yehoshua, stood up against the evil report of the ten spies (Bemidbar 13:30, 14:6), and how the tribe of Reuven eventually decided, with the tribe of Gad, to seek to take its portion of land outside the formal boundaries of the land of Israel (Bemidbar 32).

The Torah text reveals to us the shift in spiritual influence of the two tribes, through the different accounts in the Book of Bemidbar. And it uses the ordering the tribes, in different places, to underscore this shift and make a point that first and foremost, it is the actions of the person or persons that make them true leaders and not their titles.

Rabbi Francis Nataf

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/redeeming-relevance-in-the-bible-francis-nataf/redeeming-relevance-parsha-bemidbar-follow-which-leader/2016/06/07/

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