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Leaders by example

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil
July 12, 2017

A comedian stands up before the crowd, taps the microphone and says “what’s the difference between a manager, supervisor, and a leader?” The crowd sits in silence in anticipation of the punch line. “A Supervisor will tell you they are a Supervisor, a Manager will make the Supervisor tell you he is the Manager and you will already know who the leader is.”


For those of you who are still not sure of the difference, let’s try this. A Manager is someone who is given their authority (key word here) by the title of their function or role. Their main responsibility is to manage the day to day functions of an office, department, or business. The Manager will focus on tactical functions and plans and are more focused on controlling all aspects of the operation. It takes a skilled individual to be able to handle the multiple pressures that are involved with accomplishing any project, task, or function in today’s complex business world. The Manager will manage his people and how they will do their functions.

What makes a leader? First of all, it’s more than telling employees what to do. It encompasses more than sitting behind a name plate or title on your name tag.

Where a manager thinks tactically, a leader plans strategically.

A leader does not tell employees what to do, they inspire and motivate them to push themselves and that leads to greater productivity and less drain on operations. Where a Manager receives their authority based on their title, the leader attains their strategic goals through the approach they use.


Our greatest leader Moshe Rabenu was told that his time on this earth was coming to an end.

He had led a fulfilled life, and with Hashem’s help had succeeded in taking out a people from the midst of servitude, moulding them in to a proud and holy nation.

Yet now it seemed the his final days were approaching.

What does a leader do upon learning this news?

Perhaps take some extra time out with the family? Go on a long final vacation?

How does one respond to the news?

Moshe Rabenu’s response is fascinating.

“Let Hashem, Lord of the spirits (Ruach) of all flesh, appoint a man (ISH) over the congregation… that G-d’s congregation not be like sheep that have no shepherd.

Moshe asks Hashem to chose a new leader – Ish Al HaEda – a man over the congregation, who will go out before them and come before them,”

His first thoughts are towards the nation.

Who will lead the nation that he has nurtured? Let them not be like sheep without a shepherd. Hashem please anoint a great successor.

In his words, lay the greatest depth. A leader about to pass away left his plea with the King of Kings.

In Moshe’s request, he specifically refers to Hashem as Elokei Haruchot – Lord of the Spirits and asks for a Ish Al HaEida. What is the significance of Elokei Haruchot and Ish?

Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Teitelbaum zts’l (1808–1883), known as Rabbi Zalman Leib was the author of the Yetev Lev. He was a great sage and the Rebbe of Siget.

Many people used to come to Siget to visit the Rabbi.

In the town lived another less known Tsadik by the name of R Yosef Leib. He was very modest, low key and a merchant as well as a Talmid Chacham

Once the Rebbe of Siget in his modesty remarked that many people come to this city to visit Rabbi Yosef Leib, but they get mixed up and end up visiting Rabbi Zalman Leib.

The Rebbe of Siget (R Zalman) spoke over the following words at the hesped of R Yosef Leib

When Yosef interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, Pharaoh was stunned.

He turned to his advisors – Hanimtsah Kazeh Ish Asher Ruach Elokim Bo?

The Midrash Rabbah (90:1) states that Pharaoh said to them: “If we would go from one end of the world to the other end we would not find such a person like this?”

R Zalman asked an awesome question.

Pharaoh asked is there anyone like Yosef? Of course there was! There was Yakov, and surely there were plenty of other Tsadikim in the world.

How can he make a statement saying that he would never find such a person as Yosef throughout the whole world?

R Zalman explained that Pharaoh knew that there were plenty of people in the world that had Ruach Elokim – a G-dly Spirit.

But for Pharaoh, a G-dly Spirit meant a person who is secluded from this world. A person that concentrates on spirituality and does not enter in to the realms of the physical world.

Yosef had been a servant of Potiphar, he was a worldly young lad, he had experience in the physical world, yet at the same time showed such strength and stamina in the spiritual world.

His everyday chores did not give testimony of his G-dly Spirit that he possessed. That’s not the kind of person you would expect to posses such spirituality.

The Gemara Sota (36b) tells of the political controversy that erupted in Egypt in response to Pharaoh’s decision to name Yosef the country’s viceroy. The royal servants murmured, “You subjugate us to a slave purchased for twenty silver coins!?”

Pharaoh answered I see in him Genunei Malchut.

Rashi explains this to mean – I see in him the characteristics of royalty – wisdom, might and beauty.

It was Yosef’s spirituality combined with his wisdom, might and beauty that influenced Pharaoh to make the tough, yet swift decision to implement him as viceroy over the whole of Egypt.

The Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel (Bereishit 39:11) also explains that Yosef was an accountant! He would excel in organising all the accounts of his master.

Yosef lived an ‘ordinary’ life, mixing with the Egyptians, yet at the same time shone through with spirituality that was second to none.

This is what Pharaoh referred to when he said, if you look from one end to the other of the world, we wont find such a man (Ish) who has G-d’s Spirit in him.

It is easy to find a man that is successful in worldly endeavours, and its easy to find a man who specialises in spirituality – but to find both an Ish and Ruach Elokim – a man who acts in the realms of this world, and yet posses such vast spirituality – that we wont find anywhere else.

R Zalman Leib finished by stating that such was the person before them – R Yosef Leb was a merchant and at the same time possessed great spiritual fervour.

Moshe was an awesome leader. He cared for his people. That was his focus at the time.

When it came to choosing the next in line to lead this magnificent nation, he asked Hashem that the person in kind not just posses spiritual greatness. That of course was a necessity, but that he also is a person of the people, one that would know and understand them.

The Kotzker Rebbe once made the following comment on the verse in the book of Shemot: “People of holiness you shall be to Me.”

Hashem is saying, as it were: “I have enough Angels, I need people, to be a holy nation here on earth!” People who find favour in the eyes of G-d and mankind, who sanctify the mundane and who do good deeds in this world, thus making the world a better place to live in, and for the Shechina to reside amongst us.

Lets all be leaders by example!

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