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Virtual Talmud

Can We Trust our Leaders?

Today’s front page New Times article on Israeli machismo is very telling. It highlights how even those who speak in the most universal ethical/religious terms can locally act in the most unethical and anti-religious manner.

The Israeli machismo issue is only one angle of the larger issue of how we cope with power. The machismo that was privileged/tolerated for so long in Israeli society issue points to what Rabbi Grossman’s post touches on: Namely, how do those in positions of authority–specifically those in positions of ethical, political, and religious authority–treat those closest to them?


It’s very easy to give God, a nation, or the cosmos respect; it is much more difficult to treat other human beings with respect. Rabbi Israel Salanter was known to have said, “I take care of my spiritual needs by taking care of other people’s physical needs.”

Great warriors, politicians, gurus, ministers, rabbis, and priests ask for enormous amounts of trust from their followers. They speak in abstract terms of “winning wars,” “protecting nations,” “saving souls,” and “leading congregations.”

In their desire to save the world, these outstanding individuals are prone to forget about the pashut (simple) person who has given over his/her trust. The challenge of being a leader in any realm of life is to never forget about where one’s claim to leadership comes from: real, live human beings.

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posted October 20, 2006 at 6:29 pm

Rabbi Stern, I don’t know whether to love or hate you! :-) Seriously, it all started by going to the link on Rabbi Israel Salanter; that in turn led to another link and yet another link, etc! Needless to say I came up for air an hour or so later. I go to your links so I can better understand your viewpoint and am always amazed at how much I learned (study is a joy). Thank you and gut shabbes.

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