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True Leadership

As the power of the media grows ever more pervasive, it seems that it doesn’t matter what you’ve actually achieved, as long as you have good publicity. If you’ve done something great and not publicized it, it didn’t happen. If you didn’t do anything but got publicity – then you have an accomplishment.

One of the drawbacks of our culture’s media obsession is that it makes politicians and other public figures overly conscious of their image when making decisions. They are willing to pay almost any price to get positive coverage. The cost is not measured in dollars and cents; sometimes it can cost lives. And the tragedy is that often, the ones to pay the price are not the decision-makers themselves, but the communities they serve.

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One example is the many concessions that Israeli politicians have made to terrorists over the years, which compromised Israel’s safe and secure borders but earned them accolades overseas. Just over five years ago, the Israeli government uprooted flourishing Jewish communities in Gush Katif and sent the residents off with no provisions made for their resettlement – but with full approval of the media. These short-sighted political moves, with their devastating human consequences, are a recurring tragedy for our people.

In this week’s Torah portion, though, we read of a leader of a different stripe entirely. He took absolutely no notice of his PR rating—in fact, he was ready to have his name wiped out of history altogether – as long as his people would survive. Moses witnessed his people worshipping the Golden Calf, and beseeched G-d to forgive the people. He made his demand quite clear: “Forgive the people, and if not – erase me from this book that You have written.” The survival of the people was so crucial to Moses that he was willing to have his own name erased, as long as the people would flourish.

Not easy to find such leaders today!
 
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However, a rare exception to the rule may be the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.

The Rebbe created the institution of “Shlichut,” sending his students to the furthest reaches of the globe to disseminate Judaism. He did this out of concern for the future of Jews he had never met; as a leader, his concern encompassed the entire Jewish people, not just one specific sect. He persisted in his goals and mission despite many detractors, who raised issues with the way the Rebbe lavished interest and energy on the unaffiliated Jew, whom others had written off. He also dedicated hours upon hours to meet individually with people, to dispense dollars for charity and blessings.

The Rebbe was fortunate to earn the respect of leaders and ordinary people of all segments of the community. However, he was also prepared to jeopardize his standing at any time when it came to speaking up for a principle he believed in. The Rebbe spoke out often and forcefully on issues such as the safety and security of Israel, conversion, fealty to halachah and other issues – despite the fact that it might cause a loss of support. The Rebbe spoke openly and often about the imminent coming of Moshiach – although there were some who shied away from hearing such talk.

The Rebbe was a true leader; he spoke the truth, to the depths that he believed in it, despite any risks. Thanks to the Rebbe’s leadership, Judaism is undergoing an unprecedented revival. Very soon we will merit the ultimate Redemption, led by the Rebbe himself, who will be revealed as Moshiach.
 

 


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