True Leadership by Jesse Dunietz


This week’s Parsha discusses numerous Korbanot. Among them are the different Chataot that were to be brought on various occasions.  In Perek 4, Pasuk 22, the Torah says: “Asher Nasi Yechetah, Vasa Achat Mikol Mitzvot Hashem Asher LoTei’asena Bishgaga, Vasheim,”  “When a leader sins, and commits one of all the commandments of Hashem, his God, which may not be done –unintentionally – and becomes guilty.”  Rashi, quoting Sifra, relates the word Asher to Ashrei: “Ashrei Hador Shehanasi Shelo Notein Lev Lihavi Kaparah Al Shigigato, Kal Vachomer Shemitcharet Al Zidonotav,”  “Fortunate is the generation whose leader seeks out forgiveness for his unintentional sins; Kal Vachomer, will he regret his deliberate sins.”  Rashi believes this entire concept of the leader’s Chatat is very positive for the entire generation.

Rav Menachem David of Amshinov asks an interesting question on Rashi. Why is it a positive thing for a Gadol Hador to sin and repent?  Wouldn’t it be better for the leader not to have sinned in the first place?  Why does Rashi seem to imply that sinful leaders are beneficial?

Rav Menachem answers that, indeed, it would be far less beneficial to have leaders who have not sinned.  “Perfect” leaders cannot relate to the people.  They cannot understand others, and will criticize and look down on others’ faults, because they lack the experience of sining and repenting.  Therefore, it is beneficial to the people that their leader comprehend sin, because through that very sin, he can understand their own faults.

However, Rav Avigdor Boncheck points out in What’s Bothering Rashi? that Rashi does not say, “fortunate is the Nasi.”  It is never appropriate to rejoice in sin, and the Nasi is never pleased that he has erred.  The nation, on the other hand, can be called “fortunate.”  They are truly fortunate to have such a leader.

This is the true meaning of leadership.  Jewish leaders must have both sides of the coin: they must be humble enough and human enough to admit their faults and relate to the people; yet always strive to remove those very faults that make them human, and come closer to personal perfection.  Rashi teaches a profound and timeless lesson about the meaning of leadership, which is something for all leaders to strive for.

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