3. Towards a New Definition of the Jewish Leader
Let us now reconsider whether to follow Elazar's dictum to abandon the issue of, “Who will lead the Jewish community?”
While disunity is not unknown in the Jewish world, it has its fair share of rivalries, headline hunters and self-seekers: yet, "out there" definitely exists a plethora of talented individuals who can offer their services to the Jewish cause.
Will we be satisfied with cold professionalism, rather than seeking out such people?
Will we depersonalize the role of individual Jewish leaders?
Will we allow Jewish leaders and will we ourselves wish to explore questions that arise from the new balance of power between the traditional mantles of Jewish leadership?
Therefore, in a world that is becoming increasingly plutocratic, media-saturated and devoid of lasting values, we should instead redouble our efforts to revive interest in and grapple with the question of Jewish leadership.
Moreover, it is imperative that we do so, because its substance is far more complex and its significance more far-reaching than the mere construction of theoretical models for political organization.
This issue is not new, as has been discussed previously, and we return to a Biblical example. When Korach challenged Moses’ and Aharon’s authority to rule and judge, he was essentially trouble-making and self-seeking, but he worded his challenge cleverly in a manner that has been echoed in the modern Jeffersonian, egalitarian, principle of democracy, namely not that all men are created equal, but that all (Jews) are chosen equal.
In an interesting contemporary insight, Rabbi Soleveitchik http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Soloveitchik concedes that Korach had a point, but adds that Korach was unaware of the dimensions of chosenness implied in the Biblical text, in which both the 'holiness' and 'chosenness' of the People are described. Since the text actually employs both terms, it is possible to derive that over and above the collective realm of chosenness, or Kedushah, evolving from the covenantal relationship between G-d and the Congregation (of Israel), there is a second aspect: one that Rabbi Soloveitchik terms 'individual sanctity'. He argues that this derives from a second source: namely, 'individual chosenness'. The implication of this concept is that the individual Jew is the direct recipient of Kedushah, in accordance with his or her own unique personal endowments, efforts and achievements.
In other words, over-emphasis on the social domain of Kedushah or chosenness for all leads to a suppression of the significance of genius and uniqueness, in that it favours the similarity of all individuals. The concept of 'individual chosenness', however, recognizes the value of the individual's inner potential and adds a personalistic domain, “sanctification specific to the individual and unlike that found in anyone else.” Thus in Moses’ rebuttal, he makes no mention of the Eidah (Congregation) or collective; instead, he refers to individual chosenness. “In such a context,” asserts the Rav, “the individual does indeed rise to positions of teaching and authority according to his merits.” [see Bibliography: Avraham Besdin]
In offering us this critical insight, Rabbi Soloveitchik explains:
• Korach misunderstood the Jewish philosophy of power and leadership.
• Insofar as power is identified with kingship, and leadership is associated with political authority (with all the implied associations of force), no one person has the inherent right to that authority.
According to Rabbi Soloveitchik, however, the Jewish community - the covenantal community - is essentially a “teaching community”, not a political community: In the political community, the king is the leader; in the covenantal community, the teacher is the leader. Teachers do not raise themselves above others; the community raises them. Therefore, Korach’s argument was ultimately inapplicable.
Therefore, believes Soloveitchik, undue emphasis on the political dimensions of Jewish life deflects attention from the true nature of Jewish leadership, as reflected in Moses’ eternal title of Moshe Rabbeinu – Moses, our Teacher.
Return to the text about Korach and re-examine the two theses.
Which emphasis is more helpful to you in understanding leadership?
How does Professionalism fit into the picture?
Would you define contemporary Jewish leadership as that of a political or a teaching community?
Where is the covenantal relationship in this equation?