Questions to Consider
1. Is there one ideal type of leader? (Consider in light of the above passage- is there one ideal season?)
2. In what way must a leader match the needs of his/ her time period?
3. Do you think God chooses individuals who already have the necessary strengths for the job, or does He choose individuals who have the potential to lead well? What is the benefit of each of these approaches?
Questions to Consider
1. Based on Rashi's reading, what character traits does Joshua possess?
2. How might these traits be uniquely suited to his role?
Consider as well the other places we have seen Joshua prior to his investiture: choosing men to fight against the Amalekites (military leader), waiting at the foot of the mountain for Moses (faithful attendant), staying loyal to God when the other spies slandered the land (speaking truth in the face of peer pressure).
Joshua's role is to act as the bridge, providing continuity from the people's experience in the desert to their claiming of the land. He is there to assist the people in this transition. Thus, we might expect him to echo Moses in some ways while very much being his own man in other ways.
Let us now compare Joshua's leadership to that of Moses in a variety of scenarios.
Splitting and Crossing a Major Body of Water
Taking Off One's Sandals/ Holy Ground
Conquering Egypt vs. Conquering Canaan
Conquering Egypt is a lengthy process that requires ten plagues and involves the Hebrews leaving (as opposed to taking the land for themselves). In contrast...
Questions to Consider
1. What seems to be the overall trend of Joshua's leadership as compared to Moses' leadership?
2. How might we compare this to the Abraham/ Isaac relationship? (See below)
Excerpt from "The Chronicles of Isaac" by Rabbi Zvi Shimon (link)
What is the explanation for these phenomena? I believe the two points are related. The reason for the paucity of information regarding Isaac is that there is actually very little to tell. Isaac did not generate any new ideas or set any new direction. The dominant presence of Abraham in Isaac's narrative and the similarity of Isaac's narrative to Abraham's inform us that Isaac is essentially a continuation of Abraham. Abraham was a creative giant, an iconoclast who broke away from his society and etched out a new direction, a new faith. Isaac did not strike off in a new direction but rather faithfully continued his father's heritage. He was able to deepen, preserve and consolidate the spiritual inheritance of Abraham and Sarah.
This characteristic of Isaac might be the key to understanding one of the unique aspects of his life. Unlike Abraham and Jacob who spent prolonged periods in Diaspora, Isaac never left the land of Israel. In contrast to Jacob who goes to Babylon in search for a wife (28:1-2), it is Abraham's servant who brings Isaac a wife (chapter 24). As opposed to Abraham who goes down to Egypt during the famine (12:10), Isaac is commanded to remain in the land of Israel (26:1-2). He is deeply rooted in the land and scenery of Israel. In contrast to the other patriarchs who were primarily shepherds, Isaac is the first to engage intensively in agriculture. Torah relates that Isaac loves Esau because he had a "taste for game (hunting)"(25:28). As Abraham's servant returns with Rebekka, we read that "Isaac went out walking (or meditating) in the FIELD toward evening(24:63). Isaac is a real outdoorsman, a nature lover. He worships God out in the fields (see Rashi 24:63). He connects to God through nature and, more particularly, through the sights of the land of Israel.
However, Isaac's remaining in Israel does not stem only from the nature of his religious character; It stems from the essence of his personality. Isaac represents stability and continuity. His life reflects these attributes. In contrast to the tumultuous lives led by Abraham and Jacob, Isaac lives his whole life securely in Israel. The permanence of his dwelling symbolize the stability of his character. Isaac acquires a certain peace and tranquillity which none of the other patriarchs enjoyed and which have been the aspiration of so many generations of Jews. He lives 180 years, longer than the other patriarchs. His name, Isaac, stems from the root 'tzachak' (laughter) and symbolizes his contentedness.
There are those whose power stems from creativity and who strive on tension. This might be the case with the other patriarchs. Isaac's greatness is of a different nature. It is rooted in stability and in the continuation of the tradition he inherited from his father. Isaac was not only similar to Abraham in appearance or in behavior and character. Isaac's whole life is a direct continuation of Abraham's. "These are the chronicles of Isaac, son of Abraham; Abraham begot Isaac."
Questions to Consider
1. Some leaders appear to be chosen based on ways that they distinguish themselves (Moses, Joshua). Others, in contrast, are chosen from birth. Why might this be?
2. What is the purpose of raising this child as a Nazirite?
As you know, Samson is a difficult character to fully understand within the Tanakh. On the one hand, he is a leader of the Israelites. On the other hand, he seems like much more of a vigilante. Additionally, he engages in behaviors that at least according to the peshat make him appear not to be following God's law. He engages in forbidden relations with a Philistine woman in Timnah, a prostitute and Delilah. He kills the Philistines not because they are bad to the Israelites but in order to take revenge. And he breaks his Nezirut (he is around dead bodies and in fact dies by suicide). How could God choose such a leader? And it is clear God *did* choose him...as evidenced below.
Last lines of "The Dark Knight"
James Gordon Jr.: Batman? Batman! Why's he running dad?
Lt. James Gordon: Because we have to chase him.
Cop: Okay we're going in! Go, go! Move!
James Gordon Jr.: He didn't do anything wrong.
Lt. James Gordon: Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight.
In a creative interpretation advanced by Dr. Nechama Price, Samson is not chosen for his own qualities so much as he is chosen as a personification of the people. In several episodes that are juxtaposed with his story, a recurring idea appears...
This idea is hinted at with Samson...a man who also does whatever is right in his own eyes.
What ends up happening to Samson's eyes?
If we understand Samson to be a personification of the Israelites at the time, in the same way that they follow after their own desires (rebelling against god, worshipping idols, acting lawlessly) so too does he. Eventually, however, his eyes are gouged out (indicative of punishment). But he is able to be redeemed...which is an important message for the Israelites as well.
Questions to Consider
1. Based on Dr. Price's reading, does God only select leaders based on their positive personal characteristics?
2. How could Samson's tenure as a judge and his decisions serve as a warning to the Israelites?
3. Did the Israelites heed the warning? Why/ why not?
This echoes the phrase we saw earlier by Samson, which may concern us regarding Samuel's ability to act as a just prophet. However, we soon discover that in his case, he is the one who remains steadfast and honest while those around him are gluttonous and lustful.
Samuel parallels Moses in a variety of important ways. He and Moses are both given up by their mothers at a young age (after having been nursed and weaned by them). They both see others acting inappropriately around them (whether the High Priest's sons or Egyptian brethren) and choose not to align themselves with their cause. They are both prophets. And both of them institute a new form of leadership- Moses by becoming an amalgam between warrior, king and prophet and Samuel by serving as judge and prophet but additionally as kingmaker.
How did Samuel act as leader/ judge?
Questions to Consider
1. What kind of individual is Samuel when it comes to his spiritual abilities (prophecy)?
2. What kind of individual is Samuel when it comes to his leadership abilities (judge)?
Questions to Consider
1. What does this add to our understanding of Samuel on a personal level (what kind of integrity/ character does he possess)?
2. How has Samuel demonstrated that he is the kind of person who is not influenced by others (consider Chafni & Pinchas)?
Questions to Consider
1. What are the laws a king must keep/ cannot break?
2. Why are these laws in place?
Note that Saul looks like a king (tall, noble, regal, handsome)...but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to act like one.
Our introduction to Saul sets us up to see that he is the kind of person who possesses the qualities mentioned in the above excerpt in Deuteronomy.
He is a member of the tribe of Benjamin...not a foreigner.
He goes out searching for donkeys...not horses.
His servant is the one who has money in his pocket...not Saul.
Despite the fact that the women he speaks to are infatuated with him, he does not flirt with them/ return their overtures.
(This understanding comes from Rav Amnon Bazak at this link).
Saul's status as a Benjaminite is significant...because it makes him an unexpected choice to be the leader of the nation. Recall what happened in the book of Judges...
In choosing Saul, God seems to be declaring that the background of an individual (or in this case, his tribe) does not preclude him from serving in this important leadership role. Even though the Benjaminites have a checkered past, God has faith that Saul can serve properly. Perhaps, aware of how terribly wrong things can go - as a member of the tribe that was almost wiped out- Saul will be properly motivated to impose the rule of law and God on the nation and be a successful king.
Unfortunately...over the course of Saul's lifetime, we see that he consistently falls prey to peer pressure and gives in to the people instead of standing firm. Samuel is very frustrated with him about this, largely because Samuel has lived experience of NOT doing this (not following in the footsteps of Chofni and Pinchas, Eli's sons). Additionally, Saul has the potential to act differently- he is not set up for failure. For more on that concept, please see below.
Despite the flashes of leadership we see Saul exhibit, more often he finds himself giving in to the people's will...this is why Samuel rebukes him.
Questions to Consider
1. When is modesty and humility appropriate, and when is it problematic?
2. How do modesty and humility differ from insecurity (or do they)?
Thus far, we've seen a leader who embodies continuity, another who personifies the nation and one who refuses to be influenced by those around him. Saul demonstrates the need to have one's own sense of self such that he can follow God's commands to do what is hard but necessary as opposed to what the nation might desire.
Eliav is the brother who is most like Saul...while David is the surprise/ unexpected choice. He's a mere shepherd and not fully accepted amongst the other brothers. And yet it is he who is chosen as king.
David's Encounter with Goliath
It's not just about a youth against a giant...it's about David's relationship to God (which stands in contrast to Saul's lost relationship with Him).
David as a Leader of Men
Note the echo here to what we had seen by Joshua. But can David only lead orderly troops?
Unlike Saul, who tends to be persuaded by the desires of his people, David is firmly in control of his men (despite their being a complicated group). He forbids them to kill Saul. When they threaten to kill him, he seeks refuge in God. David is faithful and loyal to God. He has unshakable loyalty.
This is demonstrated to great effect over the rest of his life, when many personal tragedies beset him (the death of his child with Batsheva, the rape of Tamar, the revolt of Absalom and the revolt of Adonijah.) Despite all of this, David remains loyal to God.
Aside from his extreme loyalty, David has compassion and love for the nation. He sees them as the sheep it is his responsibility to shepherd. Indeed...
After David begins his dynasty, we enter the era of kings...featuring many complicated and complex individuals. We will focus on a few in an effort to learn more about what God is looking for in a leader.
Why does Solomon ask for a listening heart specifically? Yes, he desires wisdom and to be a good judge- but there's more to it than that. He's actively rectifying a major flaw that occurred under his father's rule, and which led to the rebellion of Absalom. It was that justice was not served for Tamar.
It is possible that part of the reason God was so pleased with Solomon was that his request indicated not only that he wanted to be a good leader but also that he understood the need for reformation -for continuing his father's legacy while actively changing aspects of his rule. This reformation can also be seen is Solomon's change of the administrative structure in the kingdom and his focus on creating a Temple that would have both nationalistic AND universal themes.
Once again, we find ourselves matching a leader to his time...now that there is a time of stability, Solomon, who has plans for expansion and reformation, has his moment.
שלמה בנה את המלוא – המלוא היה מקום בעיר ירושלם סמוך לירושלם והיה רחבה להתאסף שם העם מענין קראו אחריך מלוא שהוא ענין אסיפה ושלמה בנה אותו המקום כי הוצרך לו כשבנה בית לבת פרעה ואף על פי כן מן הנראה לא היה טוב בעיני העם מה שעשה שלמה והיו יריאים ממנו לאמר כך וכך עשה שלמה וזה ירבעם גבה לבו והעיז את פניו ואמר שלמה בנה את המלוא כלומר ראו רעה שעשה ועוד שאמר שלמה ולא אמר המלך וזה היה מרד במלך ועוד אמר סגר את פרץ דוד אביו פירשו בו כי דוד עשה פרץ בחומת ציון שאם ימרדו בו ישראל יצא ויברח משם בלא דעתם כמו שהוא מנהג היום במלכי ישמעאל שיעשו פרץ במבצריהם שאם יקומו על המלך בני העיר שיברח משם ויקראו שמו שער הבגד ושלמה סגר אותו הפרץ ואמר ירבעם ראו גבהות לבו שסגר הפרץ כלומר שהוא בוטח שאינו ירא ממרד ובדברי רז״ל מפני מה זכה ירבעם למלכות מפני שהוכיח את שלמה ומפני מה נענש מפני שהוכיחו ברבים אמר לו דוד אביך פרץ פרצות בחומה כדי שיעלו ישראל לרגל ואתה גדרת אותם כדי לעשות אנגריא לבת פרעה ואמרו רז״ל מאי וזה הדבר אשר הרים יד במלך שחלץ תפליו בפניו
Radak on Shlomo Built the Millo
The Millo was a place in the City of Jerusalem that was adjacent to Jerusalem and was a wide open space where the nation could gather (which is why it was called Millo from the root full, to fill up) and Shlomo built up this place because he wanted to build a palace for Bat Pharoah and even though the nation was not happy with his decision, they were afraid to oppose him. But Yeravam made his heart haughty and was brazen and said "Shlomo built up the Millo" as though to say "Look at what he has done"- criticizing Shlomo.
When he talks about closing up the bolthole of David, what it refers to was the secret escape route out through the walls that many kings had. So Yeravam said- "Look at Solomon; he is so certain that we will not rebel that he is closing up the bolthole!"
Why was Yeravam chosen as king? Because he rebuked Shlomo. But why was he punished? Because he rebuked him in public. Yeravam said: "David your father made entrances in the walls so Bnei Yisrael would come up for the Shalosh Regalim and here you close them in order to make a palace for Bat Pharoah!"
We can see Yeravam as a populist - someone advancing the cause of the people, caring about them and their needs. He is even willing to speak truth to power and confront Shlomo when he feels the nation's needs are not being served. For this, he deserves to lead...but unfortunately he soon learns that power corrupts and corrodes and the man who was once concerned about Bnei Yisrael being able to gather for Shalosh Regalim ends up being the one to end that practice in his own kingdom.
Achav and Izevel
This is one of our first indications of Achav the humanist. Despite having committed himself to doing what is evil in God's eyes, He cares deeply for His nation.
But then Achav does something which works against his humanist behavior, in that he permits Jezebel to frame, falsely accuse and murder Navot in order to steal his vineyard. Despite this major error, Achav is not beyond hope...
But the main way in which Achav is remembered is for his humanism in that he cares for his nation, exhibited perhaps most poignantly by his death scene.
Achav may have been one of the most wicked kings, but he still loved his people.
Jehu is chosen by God to achieve a particular mission. It becomes clear that Jehu is a complicated character- a trickster- and this is part of what makes him an appropriate choice.
Unfortunately, although when it comes to the Ba'al Jehu acts appropriately, he makes other decisions that show him as too bloodthirsty and bring him personal benefit and gain as opposed to benefiting the entire nation, and thus is eventually condemned.
So what does God look for in a leader?
It depends on the time period.
It depends on the people.
Sometimes God seeks continuity.
Sometimes He seeks a leader who personifies the nation.
Sometimes He seeks a leader with integrity and a personal moral compass.
Sometimes He seeks a love for humanity.
Sometimes He seeks someone with a darker side (bloodlust, a tricky nature) who can put that nature to use serving Him.
There is one constant that God always desires.
It is this:
When rulers fall, it is inevitably because they were no longer able to control themselves...and they give in to lust for power, sex, blood or idols (or conformity).
There is a Hebrew adage: Who is mighty (a Gibor)? The one who can conquer his inner nature.
"If" by Rudyard Kipling
(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!