Lessons of Leadership
Babylonian Talmud Gittin 55b
1 א
אקמצא ובר קמצא חרוב ירושלים אתרנגולא ותרנגולתא חרוב טור מלכא אשקא דריספק חרוב ביתר אקמצא ובר קמצא חרוב ירושלים דההוא גברא דרחמיה קמצא ובעל דבביה בר קמצא עבד סעודתא אמר ליה לשמעיה זיל אייתי לי קמצא אזל אייתי ליה בר קמצא אתא אשכחיה דהוה יתיב אמר ליה מכדי ההוא גברא בעל דבבא דההוא גברא הוא מאי בעית הכא קום פוק אמר ליה הואיל ואתאי שבקן ויהיבנא לך דמי מה דאכילנא ושתינא אמר ליה לא אמר ליה יהיבנא לך דמי פלגא דסעודתיך אמר ליה לא אמר ליה יהיבנא לך דמי כולה סעודתיך אמר ליה לא נקטיה בידיה ואוקמיה ואפקיה אמר הואיל והוו יתבי רבנן ולא מחו ביה שמע מינה קא ניחא להו איזיל איכול בהו קורצא בי מלכא אזל אמר ליה לקיסר מרדו בך יהודאי אמר ליה מי יימר אמר ליה שדר להו קורבנא חזית אי מקרבין ליה אזל שדר בידיה עגלא תלתא בהדי דקאתי שדא ביה מומא בניב שפתים ואמרי לה בדוקין שבעין דוכתא דלדידן הוה מומא ולדידהו לאו מומא הוא סבור רבנן לקרוביה משום שלום מלכות אמר להו רבי זכריה בן אבקולס יאמרו בעלי מומין קריבין לגבי מזבח סבור למיקטליה דלא ליזיל ולימא אמר להו רבי זכריה יאמרו מטיל מום בקדשים יהרג אמר רבי יוחנן ענוותנותו של רבי זכריה בן אבקולס החריבה את ביתנו ושרפה את היכלנו והגליתנו מארצנו
The destruction of Jerusalem came through a Kamza and a Bar Kamza in this way. A certain man had a friend Kamza and an enemy Bar Kamza. He once made a party and said to his servant, Go and bring Kamza. The man went and brought Bar Kamza. When the man [who gave the party] found him there he said, See, you tell tales about me; what are you doing here? Get out. Said the other: Since I am here, let me stay, and I will pay you for whatever I eat and drink. He said, I won't. Then let me give you half the cost of the party. No, said the other. Then let me pay for the whole party. He still said, No, and he grabbed him in his hands and put him out. Said the other, Since the Rabbis were sitting there and did not stop him, this shows that they agreed with him. I will go and inform against them, to the Government. He went and said to the Emperor, The Jews are rebelling against you. He said, How can I tell? He said to him: Send them an offering and see whether they will offer it [on the altar]. So he sent with him a fine calf. While on the way he made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say on the white of its eye, in a place where we [Jews] count it a blemish but they do not. The Rabbis were inclined to offer it in order not to offend the Government. Said R. Zechariah b. Abkulas to them: People will say that blemished animals are offered on the altar. They then proposed to kill Bar Kamza so that he should not go and inform against them, but R. Zechariah b. Abkulas said to them, Is one who makes a blemish on consecrated animals to be put to death? R. Johanan thereupon remarked: Through the scrupulousness of R. Zechariah b. Abkulas our House has been destroyed, our Temple burnt and we ourselves exiled from our land. [Soncino translation]
2 ב
Questions

1. Who is to blame for the destruction of the Temple? Is it fair to R. Johanan to blame R. Zechariah b. Abkulas?
2. How should the matter have been handled by everyone in order to avoid conflict?
3. Do you see any similarities between this story and the way we conduct ourselves today? How can we improve the ways we treat each other?

Babylonian Talmud, Arachin 17a
3 ג
פליגי בה רבי יהודה נשיאה ורבנן, חד אמר: דור לפי פרנס, וחד אמר: פרנס לפי דורו. למאי הלכתא? אילימא למעליותא, דמר סבר: אי מעלי דרא מעלי פרנס, ומר סבר: אי מעלי פרנס מעלי דרא
R. Yehudah Nesiah and the Rabbis disagreed (on the interpretation of a verse). One says ‘(the character of) a generation parallels (that of its) leader.’ And the other says ‘(the character of) a leader parallels that of his/her generation.’ What is the issue of disagreement? If you will say (that they are debating) righteousness, that one master holds that if a generation is righteous then their leader is righteous, and the other master holds the reverse; that if a generation’s leader is righteous, then the generation too is righteous. [Translation by Uri L’Tzedek. Edited for gender neutrality]
4 ד
Questions

1. How do R. Yehuda Nesiah and the Rabbis each understand the role of leadership?
2. How are societies influenced by their leaders, and how are leaders influenced by their societies?

5 ה
Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot Chapter 1
Translation Original
Even though [Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah] assumed a position of distinguished leadership in the community, nevertheless, he lived a long life. [Translation by Danny Siegel]
אף על פי שנכנס לגדולה האריך ימים
Questions

1. What does this text assume about the relationship of leadership and personal well being? Why?
2. What kinds of sacrifices does a leader make for their community?
3. What kinds of support should a leader expect from their community?

Jerusalem Talmud, Peah Chapter 8
6 ו
רבי עקיבה בעון ממניתיה פרנס אמ' לון נמלך גו בייתיה הלכון בתריה שמעון קליה דיימר על מנת מתקל על מנת מבזייה
When the members of his community wanted to appoint Rabbi Akiva their leader, he said, “Let me discuss it with my household.” They [the community] followed him home and overheard them saying, “If you take the position, know that they will curse you and they will despise you.” [Translation by Danny Siegel]
7 ז
Questions

1. Why did Rabbi Akiva’s family members assume that the community would curse and despise him?
2. Why do we often criticize and resent our leaders? How is this related to our expectations of them?
3. How should a successful leader be viewed by their members?

8 ח
Midrash Tanhuma, Mishpatim 2
Translation Original
If a person of learning participates in public affairs and serves as judge or arbiter, that person gives stability to the land... But if a person sits in their home and says to themselves, “What have the affairs of society to do with me?... Why should I trouble myself with the people’s voices of protest? Let my soul dwell in peace!”—if one does this, they overthrow the world. [translation by Hazon]
מַלְכָּהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה, בְּמִשְׁפָּט שֶׁהוּא עוֹשֵׂה, מַעֲמִיד אֶת הָאָרֶץ... אִם מֵשִׂים אָדָם עַצְמוֹ כִּתְרוּמָה הַזּוּ שְׁמוּשְׁלֶכֵת בְּזָוִיוֹת הַבָּיִת וְאוֹמֵר: מָה לִי בְּטוֹרַח הַצִּבּוּר ?מָה לִי בְּדִינֵיהֶם? מָה לִי לִשְׁמוֹעַ קוֹלָם? שָׁלוֹם עָלֶיךָ נַפְשִׁי! הֲרֵי זֶה מַחֲרִיב אֶת הָעוֹלָם.
Questions

1. When do you sit at home when you might stand up and make a difference? Why is it often easier to do so?
2. What does this text say about the relationship between power and responsibility?

9 ט
Midrash Tanhuma, Nitzavim 2
Translation Original
"The heads of your tribes" (Deuteronomy 29:9) Even though I appointed over you heads, elders, and officers, all of you are equal before Me, for the verse concludes, "All are the people of Israel." Another explanation: for you are all responsible for one another.[translation by AJWS]
ראשיכם שבטיכם אע"פ שמניתי לכם ראשים זקנים ושוטרים כולכם שוין לפני שנאמר וכל איש ישראל, ד"א כלכם ערבים זה בזה
Questions

1. What does the first explanation of the verse that the midrash offers us teach us about leadership?
2. What about the second explanation?
3. According to this midrash, what are the goals of leadership?

Mishna, Pirkei Avot 2:6
10 י
ובמקום שאין אנשים השתדל להיות איש.
In a place where there are no worthy people, strive to be worthy. [Koren Sacks translation]
11 יא
Questions
Mishna, Pirkei Avot 3:20
12 יב
רבי אלעזר בן עזריה אומר, אם אין תורה, אין דרך ארץ; אם אין דרך ארץ, אין תורה. אם אין חכמה, אין יראה; אם אין יראה, אין חכמה. אם אין דעת, אין בינה; אם אין בינה, אין דעת. אם אין קמח, אין תורה; אם אין תורה, אין קמח.
Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria: Without Torah there is no social order; without social order there is no Torah. Without wisdom, there is no conscience; without conscience, there is no wisdom. Without knowledge, there is no understanding; without understanding there is no knowledge. Without sustenance, there is no Torah; without Torah there is no sustenance.
13 יג
Questions

1. How do you react to these conditionals? Does this list make sense?
2. How do we define "sustenance?" What types of sustenance don't exist without Torah?

Mishna, Pirkei Avot 4:1
14 יד
בן זומא אומר, איזה הוא חכם--הלמד מכל אדם, שנאמר "מכל מלמדיי, השכלתי" (תהילים קיט,צט). איזה הוא גיבור--הכובש את יצרו, שנאמר "טוב ארך אפיים, מגיבור" (משלי טז,לב). איזה הוא עשיר--השמח בחלקו, שנאמר "יגיע כפיך, כי תאכל; אשריך, וטוב לך" (תהילים קכח,ב): "אשריך", בעולם הזה; "וטוב לך", לעולם הבא. איזה הוא מכובד--המכבד את הברייות, שנאמר "כי מכבדיי אכבד ובוזיי ייקלו" (שמואל א ב,ל).
Ben Zoma said: Who is one that is wise? One who learns from every person, as it is said: From all my teachers have I gained understanding.(Psalm 119:99) Who is mighty? One who conquers their impulse to evil, as it is written, "One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one who rules over their spirit than one who conquers a city" (Proverbs 16:32) Who is rich? One who is happy with their portion, as it says (Psalms, 128:2),"If you eat of toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you"; "fortunate are you" in this world, "and good is to you" in the World to Come. Who is honored? One who honors the creations, as it says, "Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who scorn Me will be despised" (I Samuel 2:30) [AJWS translation]
15 טו
Questions

1. How can we learn from every person?
2. How can we control our impules to do evil?
3. How can we become happy with our portion?
4. How can we honor all of God's creations?