Devarim 5770: What it Takes to Bring True Jewish Leadership and it’s Applications

by Moshe Burt

A number of years ago, Rav Aba Wagensberg spoke out in a shiur that Sefer Devarim represents Moshe Rabbeinu’s Mussar to B’nai Yisrael as the time of his death drew near.

He explained that near the end of Sefer BaMidbar, we began to see indications, via the story of Zelafchad’s daughters, Reuven and Gad’s desire to settle east of the Jordan, etc., that the B’nai Yisrael finally desired to accept Moshe Rabbeinu’s teachings and his Mussar which was meant to bring about the perfection of the Jewish people in emulation of the ways of Hashem as they were about to enter Eretz Yisrael.

Rabbi Wagensberg gave over a thought that the B’nai Yisrael, after all of the rebellions, all of the contention, all of the failures which the rebellions and contention wrought, finally came to the collective, unequivocal realization that Moshe Rabbeinu, now in his final days on earth, was indeed Hashem’s annointed — the undisputed leader and that his words are the words of Hashem.

This thought seems to indicate that a Jewish leader, a Godol HaD’or is only as effective as his people’s unity with, recognition of and desire for the application of his leadership. It seems that real Jewish leadership flows from a unified people actively seeking the Godol’s leadership, rather than from expedience, band-aids and political goaltenders. In other words, contrary to a Nixonian economic concept; the “trickle-down theory,” effective, righteous Jewish leadership evolves upward, the “trickle-up theory” where the Am actively recognizes, endorses and seeks and encourages the Godol’s leadership and it’s application thereof.

R’ Wagensberg also spoke about the sequence of donning and removing the tefillin shel yad and shel rosh. He noted that the shel yad is donned first before the shel rosh and then, after tefillahs, the shel rosh is removed first and only afterwords the shel yad. The tefillin sequence equates with a person’s active learning of Jewish law (Halacha) and Jewish history and then, learning Mussar concerning the practical, day-to-day real-time, real-life applications of what has been learned. So, in essence, the donning of the shel yad first, and the removal of it last equates with applying in the world outside what has been learned in Beit Knesset and/or the Beit Medrash.

Every believing Jew, whatever his level, must take on day-to-day real-time, real-life application of his learning and translate it into his own righteous leadership mantle within the body of B’nai Yisrael, but without the contentiousness of a million generals.

Every Jew, every Israeli must look deep within himself and come to true, consistent answers as to why he’s here, why there is a divine legacy to the Jews of Eretz Yisrael and how he relates to the murderous hatred of ALL Jews equally (religious and secular) by the Arab, Islamic nation. This murderous hate defies analysis, rationalization or attempts to remediate by way of misread (as weakliness) Israeli misguided, misdirected kindness, morality and desire for peace. And every Jew must similarly look deep within himself and come to terms with how he treats his fellow Jew — Bein Adam L’Chaveiro and whether it meets the spirit, the intent of V’Ahavta L’rei’echa Kamocha.

Every Jew, as his own leader, if he thinks deeply enough, must come to the inescapable conclusion that the Arab’s irrational lust for death to the Jew and destruction of the State of Israel emanates from Shemayim, as a form of what’s written in Parsha Toldos.

There, Yaakov Aveinu, in his remaining Bracha for Eisev said;

“…your brother you shall serve; yet it shall be that when you are aggrieved, you may cast off his yoke from upon your neck.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 27, posuk 40)

Rabbi Artscroll renders Rashi;

“When you are aggrieved” as meaning; “If Israel ever transgresses Torah, and is thus undeserving of dominion, you will have a right to be aggrieved that he has taken your blessing and you may cast off his yoke from your neck.” (Artscroll, Stone Chumash page 141: Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 27, posuk 40)

The Chumash explanation of the posuk concludes in this way, “This is in consonance with the prophecy given to Rifka while she was pregnant: Her two sons would not be able to coexist; when one ascended, the other would decline.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 25, posuk 23, as rendered in Stone Chumash, page 141)

And finally, the Jews, whatever their level of emunah and observance, must of necessity come together, as the masses of the modern-day medinat Israel once were as when they fought the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War or when Israeli soldiers rescued the 100 hi-jacked Entebbe hostages. They must again shed or subvert their sectorial disputes and jealousies in the interest of unity and toward the larger national interest of seeking and bringing to power a true Jewish Leadership, rather than falling prey to divide-and-conquer, monetarily and morally corrupt, self-interested, self-enriching, teflon/etrog governance.

But maybe, that genuine Jewish leader, the true Godol HaD’or, the Torah-true head of state is out there, obscured, hidden and waiting for the people to bring about the proper climate for his leadership. This proper climate can seemingly only come about through the deconstruction of the cancerous rot which is modern-day medinat Yisrael’s governance as well as the deconstruction of the rot which are sectorial rivalies among the religious, as well as eliminating an atmosphere totally devoid of V’Ahavta L’rei’echa Kamocha on a one-to-one level.

This rot encompasses entrenched governmental ministerial institutions and university faculties, its courts and justice system, its media and bureaucracies. And let us not forget about the consolidation of wealth within the hands of a relative handful of families who control Israel’s financial standing as well as communal religious leadership seemingly handcuffed and incapable of tzedek — justice when it comes to handling issues of business ethics, domestic and child abuse, fraud, criminality and more.

The reality seemingly is that without eradication of these cancers plaguing religious society in Eretz Yisrael, even the evolvement of true Jewish leadership is subject to the slippery-slide of political compromise and/or attacks by these entrenched institutions which would whittle down the credibility of and eventually doom any attempt to invoke Torah values. We were seemingly witness to the perfect example of this slippery-slide when Menachem Begin, the closest of any prime minister of modern-day Israel to possessing these values, was ultimately unable to lead with any Torah integrity due to the pressure of subversion by the entrenched ministerial, institutional, political rot, as well as supportive media rot.

B’Ezrat Hashem, as we pray and hope for each year, that this Tisha B’av FINALLY be the last Tzom for B’nai Yisrael.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.