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What Makes a Leader?
By Excerpt: Nurturing Faith

Leadership is a word used often in our lexicon. But what exactly is leadership? What unique qualities does Torah ascribe to a Jewish leader?

The Zohar describes Moses, the archetypical Jewish leader, as being the Ra’aya Mehemna, the “Faithful Shepherd” of Israel. The Jewish people are the flock, so to speak, that G-d has entrusted to Moses’ delicate care.

Indeed, as the Midrash relates (Shemot Rabbah 2:2), when Moses was tending the flock of Jethro in the wilderness, a little kid escaped from him. He ran after it until it reached a shady place. When it reached the shady place, there appeared a pool of water and the kid stopped to drink. When Moses approached the kid, he said: “I did not know that you ran away because of thirst; you must be weary.” So he placed the kid on his shoulder and walked back to the flock. Thereupon G-d said: Because you were merciful in leading the flock of a mortal, you shall tend My flock, the people of Israel.

But the term Ra’aya Mehemna has another connotation, one that perhaps better captures the vital role of a Jewish leader: “Shepherd of Faith.” In other words, Moses’—and every Jewish leader’s—function is to impart faith in G-d to his people.


There are many forms of faith. The lowest is a faith that is abstract, fleeting and aloof; an easy form of faith. A thief who asks G-d to grant him success in his crime demonstrates a certain sense of faith. Yet, were he to follow his “faith” to its logical conclusion, he would realize that he is engaged in a very un-“faithful” act.

Likewise, to a lesser extent, one who asks G-d to grant him success in his business affairs and then proceeds to employ morally questionable practices in these very affairs also exhibits the effects of a “superficial” faith. This faith is easy because it means nothing to the person; it does not compel him to alter his behavior in any way.

True faith, then, is defined by its consequence. It is not merely a feeling, but an impetus for something real, something tangible. True faith shakes a person to the core of his being, and demands action: “If this is what you believe, then you must act on it! No matter the difficulties you face, you must remain true to your faith!”

True faith changes a person. From where does such faith stem? From both within and without. From within, for the secret of this faith’s power to change a person lies in its being a part of the very fabric of one’s essence. From without, for it is Moses—and every subsequent Jewish leader—that empowers each one of us to tap into our deepest, most essential faith.

Moses, as the “Shepherd of Faith,” imparts faith—the ability to access one’s essential faith—to his people. For Moses activates the essence, the core, of
every person.

(Book Excerpt from Nurturing Faith, based on the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, published by Kehot Publication Society. Buy it online at www.kehot.com)

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