Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Vayeishev, 37:22. Reuven’s advice to not kill Yosef.

In this passuk, Reuven convinces the brothers to not kill Yosef immediately, but rather to throw him into a pit. In the next possuk it says that his intention was to come back later and bring him home. Later, Yehuda told them not to kill him, but to sell him instead, and they listened to him (37:26-7). After the brothers sold Yosef, it says that Yehuda left his brothers, and Rashi (38:1, Medrash Rabboh 42:3) brings from Sottah 13 that they demoted him from his gadlus, and blamed him for not telling them to bring Yosef back home. They said, if you had told us not to sell him, and to bring him home, we would have done that.

Think about that. The brothers were implacable in their intention to rid themselves of Yosef. It was only with Reuven’s and Yehuda’s intervention that they didn’t carry out their even more malicious and violent plans. And now they complain, and strip Yehuda of his leadership position, for not talking them out of it completely? They should have kissed his feet for at least stopping them from murdering Yosef!

The mussor haskeil, the lesson to be learned, is that leadership ability is a gift, but it is a gift that imposes an absolute obligation. A leader does not merely have the ability to lead, but instead he has a personal obligation to his community to lead them. A community is like a body, and you can’t expect the hands to do what the eyes do, nor the heart the work of the mind. The leaders are the “einei ho’eidoh,” the eyes of the community. Everything they could have prevented, but did not, is their fault.

The brothers were, then, justified in their anger, ironic as it seems. We cannot complain that the common man does common things. This is in his nature. The responsible party is the person who has the ability to influence others but who abdicates his responsibilities. Humility, friendliness, indifference, the preference for personal growth over communal responsibilities, these are all self-serving and unsatisfactory excuses for not taking the helm. If you can change the life of others for the better, if you have the knowledge and strength to influence others, then that is your basic and immediate and unavoidable responsibility. The mistakes and failures of the tzibbur are not their problems, they are yours.

1 comment:

  1. Blackleibel: On the other hand, perhaps we shouldn't complain too much about our leaders because Hashem only gives us the leaders we deserve. If we would merit better leaders, we would have better leaders. (I do believe we have the leadership we unfortunately deserve and I don't want to go to any more of their banquets.)