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WHO IS A TRUE LEADER?

WHO IS A TRUE LEADER?

Thursday, 4 December, 2014 - 12:10 pm

A charity collector was soliciting from Baron Rothschild. Displeased with the amount he'd been given, the collector complained, "Your son gave me twice as much.

"Well, my son can afford to," said Baron Rothschild.  "He has a rich father."
This Shabbat is the 20th day of the Hebrew month of Av. The Talmud relates a narrative that occurred on this very day when the Jewish people returned to the Land of Israel, after seventy years of exile in Babylonia, to resettle the land and rebuild the second Holy Temple, they faced many obstacles and hardships. The community was small and poor. The Temple treasury could not even afford to pay for firewood for the altar.
 
Several families came forth to resolve this crisis. Each donated a large quantity of firewood; when the supply brought by one family was exhausted, another family brought its donation. In this way, eight families supplied wood for the first critical year of the Holy Temple existence, till the
 
Temple treasury could afford to obtain wood independently.
 
To reward their generosity, the prophets of the time instituted that the date of each family’s donation should be fixed in the Temple calendar to celebrate their donation. One of the families donated the wood to Temple on 20th of Av, their name was “Pachat-Moav,” from the tribe of Judah. Who were they and where did they come from?
 
These families were descendents of Ruth, a Moabite princess who converted to Judaism, and later became the great-grandmother of King David.
 
The story of Ruth begins in the famine-stricken Land of Israel. The wealthy Elimelech, and his pious wife, Naomi, together with their two sons, abandon their land and their people in search of a better future. He relocates with his family to the pagan land Moab, situated in today’s Jordan. In the land of Moab, the family loses its fortune and Elimelech dies. His sons marry the princesses of Moab: Machlon marrying Ruth, and Kelyon marrying Orpah. Ruth and Orpah were the daughters of Eglon, king of Moab. Soon after their marriages, Machlon and then Kelyon suddenly die. The once esteemed Naomi is now a penniless, childless widow, a stranger in a foreign land. Her husband and both of her sons have died. She is left alone with two young daughters-in-law who are widows too. Naomi decides to return home, to the Holy Land.
 
When Naomi begins her painful journey back to her land and her people.
 
Ruth and Orpah faithfully begin to accompany her. They travel together.
 
But then Naomi stops them.
 
"Return, my daughters,” Naomi tells them. “Why should you go with me? I am an old, broken widow; life has been cruel to me. You girls have a bright future ahead of you. You are young and beautiful. Go back and open a new chapter in your life.”
 
One daughter in law, Orpah, is persuaded. She exchanges her frail, elderly mother-in-law for a new and hopeful future. But the other sister in law, Ruth, is not persuaded by her mother-in-law’s plea. She is determined to share a common destiny with Naomi whatever the future may hold
“Wherever you will go, I will go. Where you will lodge, I will lodge. Your people are my people. Your G-d is my G-d”.
 
From a royal, aristocratic and wealthy background, she was a convert from a nation that was seen as an archenemy of the Jewish people. This former princess was forced to get on line with the beggars in order to collect left-over grain from field owners, so she would survive.
 
Why did Ruth make such a sacrifice? What motivated her decision?
 
Her photo and bio were not posted on any websites. She was not a “story,” a sensation, a “woman of valor”.
 
What inspired her was one cause only, Your G-d is my G-d.” Her agenda was nothing but the truth. She did things for G-d alone, and that was enough.
 
Ruth married a judge named Boaz, they gave birth to a boy named Oved, the father of Yishai, who fathered King David. Ruth was David’s great grandmother. The entire royal Davidic dynasty, including the Messiah himself, stems from a female Moabite convert to Judaism—Ruth.
 
Why did she, a Moabite convert, become the mother of Jewish royalty?
 
Because in Judaism, the definition of a true leader is someone who is not in it for any purpose of fame, honor or power; his or her only agenda is serving G-d and His people.
 
Some six centuries later, a Jewish family living at the onset of the Second Temple era, demonstrated extraordinary and selfless generosity. Whence did they obtain this level of commitment? They came from the family of King David, and possessed the unique quality of utter selfless commitment even without receiving any validation! Where did this come from? This was the gift of Ruth, the Moabite princess who left everything behind to embark on an unknown journey Because “Your people are my people.
 
I find it deeply moving that this Shabbat the 20th of Av—the day commemorated in the Talmud as the day when the descendents of Ruth contributed selflesly to the Temple—is also the 70th yahrzeit of the Rebbe’s father, the great leader, Rabbi, and kabbalist Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson (1878-1944), who passed away in exile, after the Communists have imprisoned and exiled him due to his work in teaching and upholding Yidshkeit in the Ukraine. Like Ruth, there were the years of his life when he was exiled by the Stalinist regime to a remote village of Alma Ata in Kazakhstan. From his position as one of the most prominent and influential Rabbis in the Ukraine he was plunged into a town with no Jews, and with barely the basic necessities for life.
 
His wife, Rebbetzin Chanah, who voluntarily went to join him in his exile, describes her husband’s behavior under those insane conditions. One image I can’t get out of my mind. It is Simchat Torah. In the past, Reb Levik would lead the festive dancing in the grand shul in Dnipropetrovsk, where he served as chief Rabbi. Hundreds of Jews would come to dance with him on Simchat Torah.  
 
Now he was in a one-bedroom apartment, infested with mice and many other rodents, filled with mud, the cold penetrating the thin walls of the hut. His landlord was not friendly to Jews and had a pig roaming the house.
But it was Simchat Torah! Rebbetzin Chanah describes how suddenly she saw the same shine on her husband’s face as in the good years. Alone in the world, without a single student or friend, The Rabbi began to say “Atah Hareita” in the same profoundly emotional tone he had always done it. And then he began singing. Which song? His usual Hakafot song which he would sing each year in his own shul. For hours, he danced, his face aglow with a radiance from another world. It was an embodiment of Ruth’s immortal words: “Wherever you will go, I will go”.
 
Oscar Wilde said: “The nicest feeling in the world is to do a good deed anonymously and have somebody find out.”
 
But in Judaism, our paradigm of leadership is a woman named Ruth. She taught us that we do not live for other people’s accolades, but for G-d, for truth.
 
G-d knows what I’ve done. Every good deed done anonymously is known and cherished by G-d. G-d embraces every breath you take, every sacrifice you make, and every mitzvah you do.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
 
Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky
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