To Lead? 9/17/13

For each of these texts, pull out what you and your study partner think are the most important leadership qualities that are exhibited here.

(ג) לֹ֣א אֶת־אֲבֹתֵ֔ינוּ כָּרַ֥ת יְהוָ֖ה אֶת־הַבְּרִ֣ית הַזֹּ֑את כִּ֣י אִתָּ֗נוּ אֲנַ֨חְנוּ אֵ֥לֶּה פֹ֛ה הַיּ֖וֹם כֻּלָּ֥נוּ חַיִּֽים׃ (ד) פָּנִ֣ים ׀ בְּפָנִ֗ים דִּבֶּ֨ר יְהוָ֧ה עִמָּכֶ֛ם בָּהָ֖ר מִתּ֥וֹךְ הָאֵֽשׁ׃

It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, the living, every one of us who is here today. Face to face the Lord spoke to you on the mountain out of the fire. [JPS translation [1]. Edited for gender neutrality]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. This text serves as an introduction to the Ten Commandments. Why does Moses introduce the Ten Commandments in this manner?

2. Why do we take things more seriously if we are personally implicated in them? Can you think of another example of something in which you feel you have a personal stake, and are therefore more committed to?

(א)וְאֵלֶּה הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים. זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: מֶלֶךְ בְּמִשְׁפָּט יַעֲמִיד אֶרֶץ, וְאִישׁ תְּרוּמוֹת יֶהֶרְסֶנָּה (משלי כט, ד). מַלְכָּהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה, בְּמִשְׁפָּט שֶׁהוּא עוֹשֶׂה, מַעֲמִיד אֶת הָאָרֶץ...אִם מֵשִׁים אָדָם עַצְמוֹ כַּתְּרוּמָה הַזּוֹ שֶׁמֻּשְׁלֶכֶת בְּזָוִית הַבַּית וְאוֹמֵר מַה לִּי בְּטֹרַח הַצִּבּוּר, מַה לִּי בְּדִינֵיהֶם? מַה לִּי לִשְׁמֹעַ קוֹלָם? שָׁלוֹם עָלַיִךְ נַפְשִׁי! הֲרֵי זֶה מַחֲרִיב אֶת הָעוֹלָם.

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]

Suggested Discussion 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?

3. “Person of learning” refers to those in society who have training, a higher profession, or power of some other kind. This text is specifically speaking to those who are in power in society – and who still have responsibility to act for others. In today’s society, who would you replace “person of learning” with?

כָּל הַיָּמִים שֶׁאָדָם חָבֵר לֹא אִכְפַּת לוֹ בַּצִּבּוּר וְאֵינוֹ נֶעֱנַשׁ עָלָיו, נִתְמַנָּה אָדָם בָּרֹאשׁ וְנָטַל טַלִּית, לֹא יֹאמַר לְטוֹבָתִי אֲנִי נִזְקָק, לֹא אִכְפַּת לִי בַּצִּבּוּר, אֶלָּא כָּל טֹרַח הַצִּבּוּר עָלָיו, אִם רָאָה אָדָם מַעֲבִיר בִּיָּיא עַל חֲבֵרוֹ, אוֹ עוֹבֵר עֲבֵרָה, וְלֹא מְמַחֶה בְּיָדוֹ הוּא נֶעֱנַשׁ עָלָיו. וְרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ צוֹוַחַת: בְּנִי אִם עָרַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ, אַתָּה עָרֵב עָלָיו, (משלי ו, א): תָּקַעְתָּ לַזָּר כַּפֶּיךָ, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אַתָּה הִכְנַסְתָּ עַצְמְךָ לַזִּירָה, וּמִי שֶׁהוּא מַכְנִיס עַצְמוֹ לַזִּירָה אוֹ נִצּוֹחַ אוֹ נוֹצֵחַ, אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֲנִי וְאַתָּה עוֹמְדִים בַּזִּירָה אוֹ נִצַּחְתָּ אוֹ נִצַּחְתִּי.

As long as one is but an ordinary scholar, one has no concern with the congregation and is not punished [for its lapses], but as soon as one is appointed head and dons the cloak [of leadership], one must no longer say: ‘I live for my own benefit, I care not about the congregation,’ but the whole burden of the community is on that person's shoulders. If one sees a person causing suffering to another, or transgressing, and does not prevent that person, then that person is held punishable. The Holy Spirit then exclaims, “‘My child, if you have become surety for your neighbor’- you are responsible for your neighbor, because ‘you have shaken hands on behalf of a stranger’” (Proverbs 6:1). The Holy Blessed One says to that person: “‘You [by assuming office] have placed yourself in the arena’, and one who places oneself in the arena stands either to fail or win. We two stand in the arena; either you prevail or I.” [Soncino translation]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1) What responsibilities do we assume in our community if we take on a leadership role?

2) Is leadership a burden? A gift? Neither, or something else?

3) In what ways are all citizens of a democracy leaders?

וכבר היה רבי טרפון וזקנים מסובין בעלית בית נתזה בלוד נשאלה שאילה זו בפניהם תלמוד גדול או מעשה גדול נענה רבי טרפון ואמר מעשה גדול נענה ר"ע ואמר תלמוד גדול נענו כולם ואמרו תלמוד גדול שהתלמוד מביא לידי מעשה.

Rabbi Tarfon and some elders were reclining in an upper chamber in the house of Nitza in Lod when this question came up: Which is greater, study or action? Rabbi Tarfon spoke up and said: Action is greater. Rabbi Akiva spoke up and said: Study is greater. The others then spoke up and said: Study is greater because it leads to action. [Soncino translation]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1) Which is greater to you, study or action? Why?

2) In what ways are study and action complementary? In what ways are they different?

3) What "action" is being discussed here?