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Where Did All The Leaders Go?

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

This week’s parsha speaks of the different models of leadership; the king, the judge, the Kohein and the prophet.

It’s relatively easy to examine and criticize leaders but as the saying goes; the people get the leader they deserve.

As we arrive at Chodesh Elul, and we start to think seriously about how the coming year will look, it behooves us as a people to introspect a bit. Historically, when the Jewish people had a dilemma and summit meetings needed to be held, who represented us?

To name just a few, they were great men and women such as Moses, who ended the Egyptian slavery, Ester who ended the Persian plan of genocide, the Ramban (Nachmanodies) who stood before the hostile church, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai who met with the RomanVespasian, Rabbi Yehudah the Prince who through his relationship with Antoninus ended the Hadrianic decree. (There were eleven Roman Ceasers during the post Hadrian era, between the years 138 - 235. During those 74 years, six of the Ceasers were named Antoninus. This is referred to as the Antonine dynasty. I will leave it to those more scholarly then I to figure out which Antoninus was Rabbi Yehudah’s close friend. My guess is that it was Antoninus Pius.)

They were successful leaders because we deserved successful leaders and because we allowed them to lead us.

Who are our leaders today?

The greatness of a leader in Israel is only according to the degree of greatness of the Jewish people. For he is them. All of the greatness of Moses was because of the Jewish people. When the Jewish people sinned G-d told him “Descend!”. Meaning now that the people are sinning you too must descend from your greatness. (Rabbi Yonason Eibshitz, Yeiros Dvash Drush 4)

Everything depends on the spiritual level of the generation. If the generation merits, its scholar will be revered by all. Everyone will enjoy his teachings and they will walk in the light of his righteousness. If the generation does not merit, its’ teacher will be in hiding. His greatness will never shine to the world. The leader will not be able to lead. (Ibid. Drush 14)

Where did all the leaders go? I believe very strongly in the law of demand and supply. If we demand them, G-d will supply them. If we demand great rabbinic leadership, we will have great rabbinic leadership. If we demand prophetic leadership, we will have prophets, if we demand Moshiach, G-d will give us that too.

This week’s Dvar Torah is sponsored by Dr. Jeff Zucker, on the occasion of the third yartzeit of his beloved father Ross, Reuven ben Shaul, a"h.

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