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Thought for the Day: Leadership Qualities Taught by the Shvatim


It is with some trepidation that I write this TftD.  First, I generally try to have a defined source (whether I reference it explicitly or not) for what I am writing.  Today I am expressing my own opinion and p'shat synthesized from what I have learned and heard over the years.  Not entirely baseless, but still out on a limb.  You have been warned.

A more serious problem is that I am using the way certain historical events are portrayed in the Torah narrative to draw these lessons.  I do not want to give the impression that I am in any way, shape, or form judging the actions of our exalted and holy ancestors.  Even more: I do not pretend to have any clue whatsoever what they were really thinking.  I express only how what I glean from the events given the way HaShem has decided to portray them to us.

That said, I feel justified in what I am about to say because of and idea I have heard (and myself oft repeated): davening is talking to HaShem, learning is HaShem talking to you.  That means that learning is not simply reading a text that was written decades, centuries, or millennia ago.  Rather it is a vibrant, personal conversation with the Creator about something I need to know right now.  (Way cool; no?)

When the Shvatim were put in the terrifying position of needing to take Binyamin from his father down to Mitzrayim, two took the lead; Reuvein and Yehuda.  Reuvein's offer was rejected, while Yehuda's was not only accepted, but also solidified his position of malchus in history.  Without delving into the depth and breadth really required, I was struck by two key differences in their approach.  First, Reuvein offered to put himself in the same position as his father in case he failed.  Yehuda, on the other hand, offered himself -- his entire olam ha'ze and olam ha'ba -- in case of failure.  (In fact he offered more than that, but that's for another time.)  Second: while Reuvein acted immediately, Yehuda bided his time and waited till a decision of some sort had to be made.

The word "melech" that we translate as "king", is really associated with the word "nimlach" -- to take counsel.  A true melech considers his options, acts (not reacts) with decisiveness, and takes total responsibility for his actions.

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