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Virtual Talmud

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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