Dear Friends and Family,
I am reading a great book called “Tribes” by Seth Godin. It is about leadership and the concepts of a tribe. He explains that what stops people from being great is the fear of failure. He goes further to suggest that it is not just fear, but that people are afraid to take criticism or blame. Sadly, the fear of making a mistake and being criticized is so great that it stops one from reaching his potential. When I read this, I thought it was brilliant and describes the millennial so well. (read the book – it’s great….) Lord Jonathan Sacks brings out this idea of leadership in this week’s Parshah.
Lord Sacks explains that after the last couple of weeks, discussing Yosef’s leadership capabilities, this week an unlikely leader emerges onto the scene, Yehuda. This is the same man who proposed selling Yosef as a slave, who then separated from his brothers, living among the Canaanites, intermarried with them, lost two of his sons because of sin and having sexual relations with a woman he takes to be a prostitute and we wonder how can leadership is explelified by Yehuda.
In last week’s Parshah, the family is in a bind. They need more food and without bring down Binyamin, they will not be able to get more. Yaacov does not want to give up Binyamin and so Reuven proposes something radical: “Kill my two sons if I do not bring Binyamin back safely.” It was then Yehuda who with quiet authority – “I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him” – persuaded Yaacov to let Binyamin go with them.
Now in Egypt the nightmare scenario has unfolded. Binyamin has been found “stealing” Yosef’s cup and is to be held as a slave. The other brothers can go free. At this point Yehuda steps forward and makes a speech that changes history. He speaks eloquently about their father’s grief at the loss of one of Rachel’s sons. If he loses the other he will die of grief. I, says Yehuda, personally guaranteed his safe return.
Full teshuva (repentance) is the ability to be in the same situation to repeat an earlier sin but who does not do so because he is now a changedperson. Right here we see Yehuda’s teshuva ( repentance) because it was his suggestion to sell Yosef as a slave and now when faced with the same situation of leaving Binyamin as a slave, he says, “Let me stay as a slave and let my brother go free.” That is perfect repentance, and it is what allows Yoseph to reveal his identity and forgive his brothers.
The Torah had already hinted at the change in Yehuda’s character. Having accused his daughter-in-law Tamar of becoming pregnant by a forbidden sexual relationship, he is confronted by her with evidence that he himself is the father of the child and immediately admits: “She is more righteous than I” (Gen. 38: 26). This is the first time in the Torah we see a character admit that he is wrong and from this union descended King David.
Leaders make mistakes. Leaders are also human and they make mistakes that have nothing to do with leadership and everything to do with human weakness and temptation. What matters is that you repent, you recognize and admit your wrong, and you change as a result.
Going back to the book, instead of being afraid of making mistakes, we must understand that we will make mistakes and take responsibility for our actions, hear criticism and after move forward as a stronger person. In Lord Saks beautiful words “A leader is one who, though he may stumble and fall, arises more honest, humble and courageous than he was before.”
Have a beautiful and uplifting Shabbas! May we always have the courage to overcome our fears and stand up as leaders.