Dialectics of Leadership

The Dialectics of Leadership

Shabbat Chazon

Your ministers are crooked and take company with thieves. (Yishayahu 1 – 23)

On this Pasuk Radak says:

Ministers are supposed to fix whatever is crooked in the state. Instead they themselves make the situation crooked. They take company with thieves because the thieves give them a piece of the action. Therefore the ministers do not punish them and do not prevent them from stealing.

Crooked officials have caused so much damage throughout history. Indeed, the Midrash says the following:

The only reason why the people of Judah were exiled was because they did not uphold the law as it is said ‘Her Judges were like rams who did not have a shepherd.’ (Eicha 1)  Just as a the rams head follows directly behind the tail of the other so it is with the Judges of that generation. Each judge hid his face from the other. That is why the prophets said ‘Your ministers are crooked and take company with thieves’ (Otzar Midrashim pg. 138)

We see that political leaders and judges are interchangeable in the importance of their leadership.

Recent Political/Judicial events have left everyone cynical. The cynicism is usually directed at certain politicians from certain parties. Others are cynical regarding the judicial system which seems to be run by a small group of rich snobs who abuse their positions for their own good. Even worse some abuse their positions for the sake of  their own ideology which may be fraught with primitive prejudices against certain types. The minority, like myself, is cynical about the above and all anything else which  smells of politicians.

People who are in leadership positions should know how easy it is to be considered a slimy politician. The majority of this class of people should be locked away instead being allowed to make laws. An insignificant number of politicians remain honest. These are usually very unsuccessful and not heard from.

The popular joke has it that politicians are worse than harlots. This is because the harlot gives a little pleasure while the politician does not give any pleasure.

Our Rabbis of Blessed Memory  have said that whoever takes on a powerful position for his own benefit is like an adulterer who enjoys a woman’s body. (Psikta Rabati 22)

It is known that politicians love to abuse G-d and religion. The same Midrash we just discussed goes on to say that anyone  who takes on a powerful position without being qualified transgresses the commandment not to take the name of G-d in vain. In the name of G-d politicians promise everything. In the name of G-d they deny everything. In the name of G-d they also deny having received funds from questionable organizations who had laws passed in their benefit or fat Government contracts passed their way.

Politicians often pass laws which directly benefit themselves and their loved ones. Construction projects are ‘Bureaucratically held up’ so that politicians can squeeze more money out of buyers of their own properties. They constantly vote themselves  raises and then torture taxpayers to pay up or to get thrown in jail with Heroine addicts and rapists. Politicians often brainwash constituents to keep themselves and their family stupid. They are too stupid to see what thieves these leaders are.  They, then, continue to vote for these social liberators. Of course this is also done in the name of G-d. This is similar to another Midrash:

A woman once had her pot stolen. When she went the judge to start an investigation she saw her pot sitting on his stove.  (Psikta Derav Kahana 15 – 9)

It is unfortunate that most people do not see their pot on the politicians stove. I do not believe that corrupt politicians mean to be corrupt instead They fall into it. One way they fall into it is to be sponsored by a wealthy person while studying.

The rabbinate is often very powerful. It is very hard to make a living  while studying Torah full time. The poor yeshiva student of today may tomorrow be in a powerful position as a judge or even as a powerful politician.

Our Rabbis have said that it is a tremendous mitzvah to assist rabbinic students with their livelihood. The custom was that  successful businessmen would  give Talmidey Chachamim their best merchandise to sell. After teaching the Chacham how to sell they would split the profits. Our Rabbis have said that whoever assists Talmidey Chachamim in this manner will certainly have a great place in the World to Come. (Pesachim 53b)

We all agree that this is a very good idea. However, when this aspiring national leader fulfills his potential the successful businessmen will always have the door open to them. Our Rabbis of Blessed memory realized this contradiction when they said:

Since the habit of assisting Talmidey Chachamim with selling merchandise has become popular bribery has become prominent as well as the twisting of justice. They have gone backwards and not forwards. Upon them it is stated like the children of Shmuel. ‘His sons did not  go in his ways’  and it is further said  ‘they took bribery’…. (Tosefta Sotah 14 and Gemarah Sotah 47b also see Rashi)

How does the fulfillment of this wonderful mitzvah so easily turn into bribery?  When the Chacham’s gift for understanding and insight has been proven he may be given a position. In this position he can assist the corporation owned by  the wealthy man who gave him his head start. Additionally, he may assist those who help any Talmid Chacham. If he is a government official he can easily arrange deals and tax benefits for Yeshiva benefactors.

What happens if he is a judge? How will he rule when a benefactor is sued for patent infringement by a company which is managed by those who loath the Torah? Can a person who was supported by such benefactors properly judge such cases? I suspect, following the Tosefta from Sotah, that this would be difficult even if the defendant supported other Talmidey Chachamim then the judge. If he was supported directly by any of the litigants he would certainly be disqualified to judge the case.

The Tosefta above quotes the book of Shmuel whose sons did not follow in his holy ways. The rest of the book of Shmuel has several stories about people who were potentially great leaders. Their conduct, however, became very unacceptable. Due to their inappropriate behavior they were not allowed to lead the Jewish people.

The Sons of Eli (Chofni and Pinchas) were dishonest people who did not know G-d. and the priest’s custom with the people was that when any man offered a  sacrifice, the priest’s lad came, while the meat was cooking with a [big] fork with three teeth and said, ‘Give some roasting meat for the priest for he will not take boiled meat from you, but only raw.’ And if any man said to him, let them first burn the fat and then take as much as your soul desires; the he would answer him, No! you will give to me now, And if not I will take it by force. Because of this the sin of the lads was great in front of G-d (Shmuel – 2, 12 – 17)And Eli was very old, and he heard about everything his sons did to all of the people of Israel, and that they laid with the women that assembled a the door of the Temple. (Shmuel 1, 2, 22)

The Radak on Pasuk 22 says that these pesukim are to be taken literally, Although he further cites  some of our Rabbis of Blessed Memory who stated that they did not actually have illicit relations with these women. Instead they procrastinated the sacrifice which is given by a new mother. Women do not return to having relations with their husband until the sacrifice is given. Since they prevented the women from being with their husbands the Torah makes it as if they themselves laid with them.

The whole nation knew that their behavior was unacceptable. As a result many people decided not to come to the Temple in Shilo. Since they were the leaders of the people it would have been difficult to try  them for this activity. The sons of Eli subsequently died in a very unfortunate battle. The Judge of Judges had decided their fate.

Later we find that the sons of Shmuel were also doing several terrible activities:

When Shmuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his first born was Yoel and the name of his second was Aviah. They were Judges in Beer Shevah. And his sons did not follow in his ways but turned after greed, and took bribes, and perverted justice. (Shmuel 1, 8, 2-3)

You must keep in mind that judges were primarily national leaders. They were not just judges but Governors. Our Rabbis of Blessed memory have several opinions as to how these two men squeezed money out of upright citizens.

Rashi follows the thoughts of the Gemarah from Masechet Shabbat  top of page 55a:

Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani says in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: Whoever says that the sons of Shmuel sinned (in taking bribery) is mistaken… What then does it mean that they turned after greed? it means that they did not follow the ways of their father. He would travel around the state of Israel to Judge. His children settled in one place. They did this in order to give good jobs to their Chazanim and Scribes. (Shulchan Aruch – Choshen Mishpat 9 -4 states that a judge who lobbies for higher pay on behalf of the scribes is considered greedy and therefore is not worthy of being a judge.) This [opinion of Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachmani] is similar to the Braita [Tosefta Sotah 14] ‘They turned after greed’ Rabbi Meir says that they requested their portion [of Ma’aser Rishon – Rashi]. Rabbi Yehudah says that they forced businessmen to give them merchandise to sell (this is like the above discussion from Pesachim and Sotah) Rabbi Akivah says that they took more than they had coming to them. Rabbi Yossi says that they forced the people to give  priestly presents. (this is the same as the same of Chofni and Pinchas the sons of Eli)

The point of this discussion is to demonstrate that an official does not need to have his palm greased with a lot of money. Receiving  an advantage above others is considered bribery by the Torah. Even if this advantage  is legal it is still considered bribery. Any state needs to be sure that governors and any other officials do not benefit from such advantages. What should we think when an official was appointed because of his blood relations, associations with lobbyists, ties to the business world or any other common maladies of democracy? Or even worse what should we think when he is actually appointed by any of these people? It certainly makes me very cynical.

On our Pesukim Radak says that ‘they turned after greed’ means that their hearts turned towards money and they were worried about wealth.  It is not good for judges (remember that judges were like governors) to be that kind of people. Instead they are supposed to hate greed as it is written in the Torah.  They are the kinds of people who are happy with their portion who avoid this world and do not run after money. That is what the Torah means by ‘haters of greed’ [should be appointed as Judges] Do not explain this pasuk to mean that they hate theft, oppressive behavior and bribery. This is because it already written that they need to fear G-d,  and be true people. The sons of Shmuel loved greed, not only that , but they took bribery and twisted justice.

Ralbag also explains the pasuk similar to Radak. He says that Shmuel wanted his children to follow in his ways. He sent them to Be’er Shevah so that they could judge the Jewish people in a place far away where he himself was. Instead they followed common reasoning. (became greedy like most people) That is why they took bribery. They then twisted justice. We know that bribery blinds the eyes of the intelligent. Even when an official takes bribery without intending to twist justice he is blinded. The bribery makes it very difficult to see truth. It shades the truth so much that the judge can not see any guilt on behalf of the giver.

It is also interesting that Shmuel appointed his children to such a position. He did not intend to coronate his family as royalty. However, no other judges had tried to appoint their children to govern Israel. His children’s  greed annoyed the People of Israel so much that they insisted on ending the period of Judges and to appoint a real king. Shmuel vehemently objected to this and tried to scare them out of asking G-d for a king.

The book of Shmuel continues to tell us about Shaul the first king of Israel who was coronated by Shmuel himself after being appointed by G-d. Shaul did win several wars on behalf of Israel. However, he did not follow G-d’s instructions in the war with Amalek. Because of this the kingdom was taken away from him. He subsequently suffered mental illness. As part of his obsession to rid the world of David he massacred  Nov the City of Priests. (Shmuel 1 ch. 14, ch. 22)

Once David was himself coronated as king he had great troubles with his children. His son Amnon fell in love with his daughter Tamar from a different wife and then  raped her. (Shmuel 2 ch. 13) Avshalom, Tamar’s brother from the same mother and King David, killed Amnon to avenge his sister’s honor. Neither Amnon or Avshalom were tried for their behavior. Avshalom subsequently headed an insurrection against his Father David. Which left Avshalom dead.


You might also want to read:

Micha 7 – 3
The Minister asks and the judge is for payment.