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July 30, 2016 / 24 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘leaders’

The Campaign That Never Ends

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

As the dust settles and the fog lifts from this tumultuous year of political campaigning, we are left to wonder how our country will evolve. Will the economy bounce back? Will our schools make progress? And how about U.S. relations with Israel? Will they grow weaker or stronger? Will the administration support an Israeli strike on Iran?

No one truly knows. Perhaps this explains the gripping fascination we had with the just-concluded campaign. The intensity of emotions was palpable. The explosive passion for one candidate or the other inundated the streets of our country. Tens of millions were glued to the presidential debates and media coverage of the campaign drew an impressive number of viewers, listeners and readers.

The question, of course, is why? Why were the boisterous noises of this election campaign so dominating? Why were we magnetized by the daily polls, the gaffes and the statistics? Why did we so often give in to our relentless urge to report about the political news of the day on Facebook, Twitter and other social arenas?

Some observers say it was the appeal to vote and make a difference that drew our attention so fiercely. Others say we were lured by the appearance and personality of the candidates, by the characteristics they exuded and which we strongly empathized with or profoundly desired –integrity, intelligence, charisma, etc.

I suggest an alternative take on this phenomenon: It was our yearning for leadership that drew us to the candidates and their respective parties. And understandably so; after all, our generation has repeatedly suffered from leaders – in politics, in sports, in culture and in many other realms of our lives – who fell so low shortly after climbing so high.

Thus, as we followed the candidates’ every move, as we listened to their every promise, as we acted on their every call, we hoped and prayed that authentic leadership could be restored, that people of merit would once again become leaders of spirit.

But our search for this leader ought not to focus solely on the outside. For this optimal leader exists deep within the chambers of our souls. And day after day he hankers to emerge and fulfill his high calling and noble potential to live a life of divine meaning, a life empowered by our heritage and traditions, a life bolstered by deeds of goodness and kindness.

“Behold, the days are coming,” the prophet Amos proclaimed, “when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of God” (Amos 8:11).

It is the word of God, emanating from our inner quintessential leader, that we must seek out and realize.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of Great Britain, tells the story of how as a young student of philosophy at Cambridge University he traveled the world to visit great leaders. When he met with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe asked him about the condition of Jewish students at Cambridge, and what he was doing to help them.

“In the situation I currently find myself,” Rabbi Sacks began to respond, whereupon the Rebbe interrupted him and said: “No one finds themselves in a situation. You put yourself in a situation, and if you put yourself in that situation, you can put yourself in another situation!”

Obviously there are times when we find ourselves in situations that are beyond our control. But at almost every given moment we are presented with the opportunity of putting ourselves in a situation of leadership wherein we are called on to heed the voice of our inner leader and become agents of light to the world around us.

The 2012 presidential campaign is now over. Whether its outcome is good or bad for our country, time will tell.

But there exists a campaign, beyond the limits of time and space, that will never end. The candidate in this campaign may not be glamorous or flamboyant, but he is ambitious and determined to unleash his unique potential and actualize his God-given skills and talents. This candidate is campaigning for a life term. He refuses to rest or resign. He begs us, each and every day, to give him a chance, to allow him to act, to let him speak, to permit him to be. He passionately yearns for your attention, and more important, for your support.

Rabbi Pinchas Allouche

Chabad Emissaries Gathered in New York

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Some 4,000 Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries and communal leaders from more than 75 countries gathered in New York for their 29th international conference.

Many of the rabbis attending the conference over the weekend brought relief supplies and funds from their communities around the world to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, and volunteered their time for relief efforts.

Highlights of the conference included a visit to the gravesite of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; a group picture in front of the Chabad-Lubavitch worldwide headquarters in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn; and the annual banquet featuring an international roll call.

Conference workshops included topics such as helping people through the global economic crisis; expanding the horizons of college campus outreach; and multi-sensory approaches to Jewish education.

JTA

Pics: Egged Bus Attacked by Arab Jerusalemites on Mount of Olives

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Following a stabbing incident in which a visitor to the Jewish community of Maale HaZeitim adjacent to the historic Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery was attacked by Arabs in the Ras Al-Amud neighborhood, an Egged bus transporting Jewish residents to and from the enclave was smashed by rock-throwers, who committed the attack from the same place at which the stabbing took place.

Damage to the bus indicates that the projectiles were large, and hurled at a high rate of speed by more than one perpetrator.

Despite a meeting between leaders of the Jewish community and leaders of the Arab community, and urgent phone calls from Jewish residents to the Jerusalem police, neither have attacks been minimized through pressure by local Arab residents , nor has an increased security presence been put into place by Jerusalem’s municipality.

Jewish residents of Maale HaZeitim and the adjoining Jewish neighborhood of Maalot David have expressed their anger and concern that mayor Nir Barkat and Jerusalem police chief Yossi Friyanty have not responded to threats on their lives.

Jewish Press Staff

Resisting War, Terrorism, And Genocide (First of Three Parts)

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

All things move in the midst of death, even nations and civilizations. From 1948 to the present day, certain of Israel’s prime ministers, facing war, terrorism, or even genocide, have been deeply reluctant to admit core national vulnerabilities. Indeed, rather than acknowledge the plainly exterminatory intent and (increasingly) the corollary destructive capacity of determined enemies, these leaders have sometimes opted for (1) so-called terrorist exchanges; 2) utterly inexcusable deals of land for nothing; and (3) endlessly assorted surrenders of power.

Yet let us be fair. This assuredly is not the whole story. As we all know, during its very short post-Holocaust life, Israel has accomplished extraordinary feats in science, medicine, agriculture, education, and industry. Its remarkable military institutions, far exceeding all reasonable expectations, have fought, interminably and heroically, to prevent any new forms of post-Holocaust annihilation.

It goes without saying that every Jew on earth, and many millions of others, must be unequivocally grateful.

It is a record possibly without equal in human history.

Nonetheless, almost from the beginning the indispensable Israeli fight for survival has not been premised on appropriately optimal foundations. This fight should have been erected upon a central fact of the reconstituted Jewish commonwealth. This fact concerns land.

From the critical standpoint of legal provenance, all of the disputed land still controlled by Israel has incontestable Israeli title. It follows that protracted diplomatic negotiations between Israel and its “partners for peace” continue to rest upon basically misconceived or erroneous jurisprudential premises.

History remains a violent preceptor. Had Israel determinedly sustained its own birthright narrative of Jewish sovereignty, and without submitting to periodic and enervating forfeitures of both land and dignity, the national future, though still problematic, would likely have been meaningfully tragic. But by choosing instead to fight in ways that ultimately transformed its stunning victories on the battlefield to incremental capitulations at the conference table, this future may ultimately have to be written as farce.

Sometimes, truth is counterintuitive. In true life, as well as in literature and poetry, the tragic hero is always an object of admiration, not a pitiable creature, or one of humiliation. From Aristotle to Shakespeare to Camus, tragedy always reveals the very best in human understanding, perseverance, and purposeful action. Once aware that entire nations, like the individual human beings who comprise them, are never quite forever, the tragic hero nevertheless does everything possible merely to stay alive.

For Israel, and, in principle, for every other imperiled nation on earth, the only real alternative to tragic heroism is humiliation, or pathos. By their incessant unwillingness to decline any semblance of a Palestinian state as intolerable (because, as I have written so often in The Jewish Press, an acceptance of “Palestine” in any form would be unendurable), Israel’s current leaders have nurtured a genuinely schizophrenic Jewish reality in the “new” Middle East. This reality is a Jewish state that is, at one and the same time, unimaginably successful and incomparably fragile. Over time, the result of this ironic combination may be a palpable sense of national madness.

More than any other region on earth, the Islamic Middle East and North Africa is “governed” by unreason. Oddly, this observation has been reinforced rather than contradicted by the grotesquely twisting patterns of “democratic revolution” across the area. Earlier, while the pundits, politicos, and journalists had optimistically expected the fall of area-tyrants to be an unreservedly good thing, actual events have moved in substantially different directions.

To be sure, both Libya and Syria may yet fall to industrious jihadist elements. Already, post-Mubarak Egypt is run by a figure drawn conspicuously from the Muslim Brotherhood. In non-Arab Iran, which will soon become a hostile nuclear power, because neither Israel nor the United States had effectively stood in its way, preparations are underway to further assist Sunni Hamas allies in Gaza, and to gainfully energize Shiite Hizbullah surrogates in Lebanon. In both unstable venues, the enemy objective is an Islamic victory against “the Jews.”

In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia put an end to the Thirty Years War, the last of the great European religious wars sparked by the Reformation. In the Middle East and North Africa, however, we may only be at the start of the next great religious wars. If they are fought with biological and/or even nuclear weapons, such conflicts could rage until every flower of culture is trampled, and until all things human are leveled in a vast chaos.

Louis Rene Beres

Rep. Sherman At Wallenberg Luncheon

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Jewish community leaders gathered recently in Washington to recognize the accomplishments of Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) on issues dear to the Jewish community. Sherman is known for his unwavering support for a strong U.S.-Israel strategic relationship, for sponsoring a tough Iran sanctions bill, and for cosponsoring legislation that would require the State Department to immediately move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

(L-R) Los Angeles County Commissioner Howard Winkler; Rep. Brad Sherman; and Stanley Treitel at the Wallenberg luncheon in Washington.

Sherman joined others at the Congressional Gold Medal Kickoff Luncheon for Raoul Wallenberg, the heroic Swedish diplomat and humanitarian who saved approximately 100,000 Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust. The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to award Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal in time for the 100th anniversary of his birth in August.

“By sacrificing his personal safety, and ultimately his life, to protect the lives of a generation of Jews, Raoul Wallenberg exhibited the kind of noble courage that we prize in America,” said William Daroff, the director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America. Daroff’s organization led the lobbying efforts to honor Wallenberg at this time. “On behalf of the countless Jews saved through his mission, we are grateful for the House’s action to permanently honor a global hero.”

Jeanne Litvin

The Making of a President and the Making of a Gadol

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

I must say that I was a little bit amused by the video featured on Aish.com. In about 3 minutes Mrs. Lori Palatnik proudly explains the difference between how Americans choose their leaders and how Orthodox Jews chose their leaders. Choosing a President in this great country of ours is a democratic process, but it is heavily influenced by money and power; ads and sloganeering; and smearing the opponent. Politics at its worst one might say. Certainly the best man available for the job may not be elected, or even running.

Contrast that with how Jewish leaders in Orthodoxy are chosen. Gedolim are chosen by rabbinic peers she said with pride. Those peers recognize that the greatest man of the generation is one whose Torah knowledge supersedes all others.

The example she gave is Rav Moshe Feinstein. He did not run for anything. He was not elected by the people. Rabbinic peers saw his responsa on Jewish Law and realized that the breadth and depth of his Torah knowledge superseded theirs. Hence he was chosen as the rabbinic leader of the generation – the Gadol HaDor.

I had to smile when I saw that. I’m sure Mrs. Palatnik is a very nice woman – sincere in her pride about how Jewish leadership is chosen. But despite the fact that in theory, the Gadol HaDor is supposedly chosen based on his level of Torah knowledge by people qualified to do so, it doesn’t always work out that way. Nor is Judaism unique in this regard. If I am not mistaken the Pope is chosen by peers qualified to do so too.

And is the process really as objective as Mrs. Palatnik indicates? Hardly. There are very often politics involved. The criteria considered for rabbinic leadership is not universal. A truly great leader whose Torah knowledge may supersede all others might never be considered for that position.

Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik is a case in point. There is almost universal agreement that his Torah knowledge was incomparable. I have been told more than once by Lakewood type Avreichim that if not for his connection with YU (or with Mizrachi; or his dissent on certain public policy issues with Rav Aharon Kotler; or the fact that he had a PhD in Philosophy- pick one!) he would have possibly become the Gadol HaDor. Again – politics!

When most Charedim think about who the Gedolim are, they think about who is on the Agudah Moetzes. That is after all where Rav Moshe Feinstein – the man she uses to illustrate her point – was chosen to belong as a Gadol. Of course R’ Moshe was a Gadol of that stature without the Agudah Moetzes. One could say that he graced the Agudah Moetzes by joining them and allowing them to call him their leader. He obviously supported the ideals and goals of Agudah. They did in fact choose him for the right reasons. But that is certainly not always the case.

How are people chosen by this group to become members? First of all they choose only Charedim. And their choices are not always based on Torah knowledge. Their choices are often based on religio-political affiliation. For example they will ask a rabbinic leader in the Yekke (German-Jewish) community to join because of they want to appeal to that demographic. The same is true for choosing a Sephardi Rav for membership. Or a Chasdic Rebbe. But are these people the greatest, most knowledgeable men of the generation?

Let us indeed look specifically at how a Chasidic Rebbe is chosen among Chasidim. The fact is they are not chosen by peers at all. It is Yichus that gets them there. They inherit their positions from their fathers or their fathers in law. They may be brilliant people, well trained for leadership by their fathers. But are they chosen by peers based on their highest level of Torah knowledge? Hardly.

It may be coincidentally the case that a Chasidic Rebbe who inherited his position is a truly brilliant and Torah knowledgeable person in his generation. That was certainly true of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who inherited his position from his father in law, the previous Rebbe. But the fact is that he was not chosen for his genius. He was chosen because of his relationship to his father in law.

There are people today who are great Torah scholars, geniuses without peer who lead generations of Orthodox Jews and yet would never be chosen as a Gadol on the Agudah Moetzes. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein is a case in point. There is little doubt in my mind about his greatness in Torah.

But he is virtually ignored, if not disparaged by his Charedi rabbinic peers. He has about as much chance of being invited onto the Agudah Moetzes as I do. The same is true about Rav Hershel Shachter. He too is one of the brightest rabbinic minds of the 21st century. And yet he too would never be chosen by his Charedi peers as the Gadol Hador – or a Gadol at any level.

The truth is that even R’ Moshe was not considered by everyone to be the Gadol HaDor. Satmar didn’t. Neither did Lubavitch. Nor did the thousands of students of Rav Solovetchik. Nor did most Israeli Charedim. They all had their own rabbinic leader whom they considered greater. I have been told that in Israel – R’ Moshe’s name was rarely heard. Certainly not in the context of Gadol HaDor.

So the bottom line is that I agree in theory that Torah knowledge is the most important factor in making one a rabbinic leader. And that Torah scholars are best equipped to recognize it and make those decisions. But in reality the best people are not necessarily the ones chosen to lead.

The factors considered by the voting public in choosing a President are not always the important ones. A President can for example be voted into office based almost entirely on his Charisma. I believe that this was very much the case with JFK, for example.

But Orthodox Judaism does not live up to the ideal Mrs. Palatnik says it does either. I’m sorry to say that politics and Yichus (in the case of Chasidic Rebbes and increasingly in the Yeshiva world) may very well be a greater factor in choosing a rabbinic leader than Torah knowledge is.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Harry Maryles

Politics And Torah — Friends Or Enemies?

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Many trees upstate were damaged by the hurricane that swept through the East Coast at the end of last summer, and I was involved in finding the safest equipment to clean up the mess. I love trees and found the chore of cutting them down very difficult, especially knowing that the stately 60 year old trees would be impossible to replace. Even though we planted new trees, I don’t know whether I will be there to enjoy these new saplings when they are 60 years old. I realize that the storm waters that destroyed the trees came at His will, and He could just as easily cause miraculous growth so that the new trees would be as stately as they ones they replaced. We know that all is in His hands, and even though we are required to put forth our efforts, the ultimate success is dependant on His will. However, there always seem to be those certain areas where we forget that the Almighty is really running the show.

The Orchos Tzaddikim (Ways of the Righteous) explains: When a man splits wood with an axe, although it is the axe that is actually splitting the wood, the power doesn’t come from the blade, rather from the man who wields it. The blade is merely the instrument of cutting. Furthermore, one whose livelihood and needs depend on somebody else should not put his trust in that person; he should only place his trust in Hashem.

Imagine there are a hundred blind men, who are walking, one behind the other. Each one has his hand on his friend’s shoulder and is being led by the man before him, until they reach the front of the line where there is one man who can see. Each man in the line is not really leading the man behind him, even though it may seem that way. In reality, the seeing man at the head of the line is the one who is really leading them all. If the seeing man would detach himself from the group, they would all stumble and fall.

The Orchos Tzadikkim concludes, “Let a man take this to heart and reflect that there is no leader but the Holy One Blessed be He, and we are all like blind men, each being assisted and aided by his neighbor, and each neighbor being powerless to assist if not for the first Supreme Leader, the Giver of all, all of Whose ways are just.”

In our daily lives, there are many people who seem to be directing our happiness, success and welfare, yet it is really Hashem alone who is orchestrating our destined level of success. The puppets that are our bosses or political leaders are really just as “blind” as we are; yet we endow them with so much power. We become frustrated with them, despite their powerlessness to dictate our financial and personal successes.

We spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing, worrying, and arguing about our leadership on a national level. Ultimately, no matter how much research, time and effort we put into casting our individual votes, we don’t pick our government leaders. We expend so much time and emotional energy on the campaign issues (or non-issues) and the election fodder, that we often forget that when all is said and done, the final false promise is made, and the last vote is counted, it is only our Father in Heaven who both counts the votes and ultimately decides who runs our country.

Our relationship with Hashem is characterized in many different ways. One of the most important ways is Hashem as our King. However, this relationship may be lacking because most of us have never experienced the awe and respect one would have for a human king. Not many decades ago, people spoke of the government and its representatives, particularly the president, with respect. In the current climate, there is no expectation of respect for our leadership in the press, media, or in the population at large. While many of our leaders may not seem to be deserving of our respect, it is however, likely that this attitude reflects an overall lack of respect for authority that is prevalent today.

Rabbi Gil Frieman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/politics-and-torah-friends-or-enemies/2012/10/26/

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