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לימוד תורה

Leadership, responsibility, and reporting to the public

Parshah and its implementation - Parshat Pekudei- and the war of the 'Iron Swords' 5784

Rabbi Eliezer Haim Shenvald

Dedicated to the IDF soldiers' success, to safeguard them lest any harm come to them, to the healing of all the wounded and the return of the abducted.

Over the years I have been invited to lecture on 'Leadership in light of Judaism' to commanders and cadets in officers' courses. One of the principles of leadership that emerges from the study of the Bible and the sources of Sages is that leadership is the expansion of responsibility and caring. Naturally, each person is responsible for himself and his future and cares about himself. Usually, he also extends his responsibility and care to his closest circle, family, and friends. The leader expands the responsibility and care towards his followers, the same way he does towards himself. (more details in our book 'At the Head of the Camp' pp. 58-62).

In order for the leader to be able to exercise his responsibilities, he is given authority. The people he leads entrust their fate to him and trust him to do everything he can to take care of their needs and future. And will find any way to fulfill his responsibility towards them.

You cannot exercise responsibility without authority, and you cannot receive authority without taking responsibility. Nevertheless, responsibility and authority can be delegated. But responsibility cannot be divided. One of my commanders, a few decades ago, used to say that the word 'responsibility' אַחֲרָיוּת begins with the letter א and ends with the letterת , to show that there is always only one person in charge, and his responsibility includes everything - from A to Z ('מא' ועד ת). Even if he delegates authority to his subordinates, the responsibility still rests on him. He must supervise them so that they are implemented  correctly. When the leadership fails in its role, it cannot place the responsibility on the lower echelons subordinate to it.

The public would like to place complete trust in its leader, his integrity, and his qualities. In his hands the public entrusted their future and gave him the official authorization to do so. They trust that he will work with them and for them with full dedication and cleanliness, will not be exalted by the trust given to him and will not abuse the power given to him. However, the public cannot fully monitor the results. The public needs this trust because in situations of crisis and war it is asked to listen and accept the decisions of its leader in matters of life and death and even pay a heavy price for it. Sometimes he must volunteer and join the war under his leadership while risking his life.

The public has experienced leaders who behaved improperly and were not worthy of trust. Due to this, suspicion was developed towards the leadership. Suspicion increases when there are wariness signs towards the leader's conduct. A leader who wants to win the absolute trust of the people needs to initiate trust-building measures. He must set a personal example, share his considerations with the public as much as possible, and report back. From a religious point of view, the leader is not just a messenger of the public, there is divine supervision over the appointment of leadership even at a junior level:

אֲפִילּוּ רֵישׁ גַּרְגּוּתָא, מִשְּׁמַיָּא מוֹקְמִי לֵיהּ

"Even one with the most insignificant position of authority, e.g., an appointee over irrigation, is appointed by Heaven". (Bava Batra 91b)

ריש גרגותא - שר הממונה על הבורות מי ידלה ממנו היום להשקות שדותיו ומי למחר ושררה קטנה היא ומדכתיב לך ה' הממלכה והמתנשא יליף לה כלומר על ידך המתנשא לכל דבר אפי' לגרגותא לראש הוא על פיך:

"Even the person in charge of the cisterns, who decides who will draw water to his fields today and who will tomorrow, is appointed by Heaven". (Rashbam ibid.) The realization of the leader's responsibility is also supervised by the Almighty.

Parashat Pekudei opens with the report that Moshe gives to the people about the construction of the tabernacle. About the collection of donations for the tabernacle and the use. (Shmot 38:21).

Sages differed on the question whether the report was submitted on his own initiative, because from the beginning this is how a leader should behave and strengthen trust, or whether it was submitted because of raising suspicions against him of improper management and, G-d forbid, of embezzling the donation funds:

וי"א שגם מתחילה לא בקשו מן משה חשבון, אלא משה מעצמו רצה לנקות עצמו לכך נאמר אשר פקד על פי משה

"There are those who say that even initially they [the people] did not request an accounting from Moshe, but rather Moshe himself wanted to acquit himself, and that is why it says, "which were accounted for at the word of Moshe."  (Kli Yakar ibid)

The report was given by Moshe Rabbeinu even though he was not directly involved in the labor. Other people were there with him, Itamar, Bezalel, etc.:

ולפי שמלאכת המשכן ונדבתו היה דבר גדול והעוסקים בה היו רבים. לזה הוצרך לומר אלה פקודי המשכן שהכל היה במספר. ומי היה הסופר. אותו שנאמר בו בכל ביתי נאמן הוא. וזהו אשר פוקד על פי משה הנאמן.

"Since the work of the Mishkan and its bounty was a big thing, and those involved in it were many, it was necessary to say אֵ֣לֶּה פְקוּדֵ֤י הַמִּשְׁכָּן֙ 'These are the records of the Tabernacle', everything was in number. And who oversaw counting? The same one that it is stated בְּכָל־בֵּיתִ֖י נֶאֱמָ֥ן הֽוּא 'he who is trusted throughout My household' … the entrusted Moshe." (Tzror HaMor on Torah Shmot 38:21:1) After all, the responsibility was his, as he was the leader who stood at the top, even after delegating his authority he was still in charge.

From this, Our Sages learned for generations, how should the leader conduct himself towards the public:

בַּתּוֹרָה וּבַנְּבִיאים וּבַכְּתובִים מָצָאנוּ שֶׁאָדָם צָרִיךְ לָצֵאת יְדֵי הַבִּרְיוֹת כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁהוּא צָרִיךְ לָצֵאת יְדֵי הַמָּקוֹם. בַּתּוֹרָה מְנַיִין. דִּכְתִיב וִהְיִיתֶם נְקִיִים מֵה' וּמִיִּשְׂרָאֵל. בַּנְּבִיאים מְנַיִין. דִּכְתִיב אֱלֹקים ה' ה֣וּא יֹוֹדֵעַ וְיִשְׂרָאֵל֭ ה֣וּא יֵדָ֑ע. בַּכְּתובִים מְנַיִין. דִּכְתִיב וּמְצָא חֵן וְשֵׂכֶל טוֹב בְּעֵינֵי אֱלֹהִים וְאָדָם׃ וממי אתה למד? ממשה! אף על פי שכתוב בו "בכל ביתי נאמן הוא" ביקש לצאת ידי הבריות, שכיוון שעמדה מלאכת המשכן אמר להן: "אלה פקודי המשכן", על אחת כמה וכמה פרנסי הציבור שהן צריכין לצאת ידי הציבור

"In the Torah, in Prophets, and in Hagiographs we find that a person has to be innocent in the eyes of people just as he has to be innocent in the eyes of the Omnipresent. In the Torah from where? As it is written, you must be blameless before the Eternal and before Israel. In Prophets from where? As it is written, The Power, G-d, Eternal, the Power, G-d, Eternal, He knows, and Israel must know. In Hagiographs from where? As it is written, find grace and understanding in the eyes of G-d and man. And who did you learn this from? From Moshe! Although it is written 'he who is trusted throughout My household', he wanted to be innocent in the eyes of people, and since the work of the tabernacle was finished, he said to them: "These are the records of the Tabernacle.'' How much more so the public figures that need to be innocent in the public eye". (Midrash Manuscript Shmot 38:14)

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