Job Opening: Leader

June 27, 2010

5 min read


Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1 )

You are the best person to raise your children because no one cares about them as much as you do.

"If you have wisdom, what do you lack?
And if you lack wisdom, what do you have?"
-- Midrash, Vayikra Rabba

George Burns used to quip, "How come all the people who know how to run the country are cutting hair and driving cabs?"

Unfortunately, we tend to elect leaders for their ability to articulate what is wrong. What is really needed, which few possess, is the understanding of how to make things right.

It is with this in mind that we have to ponder God's choice to follow Moses as the next leader of the Jewish people - Joshua, a heretofore relatively unknown figure in the Bible.

It's a choice made all the more interesting since it comes in the parsha of Pinchas, one of the more famous individuals and someone with impressive "leadership skills." In fact, we could argue that Pinchas exhibits a kind of leadership virtually unmatched in Jewish history.

Pinchas' actions are so impressive that God rewards him with the "Covenant of Peace." It is hard to find a similar champion in the Torah.

Obviously God is making a point. Leadership is not what you might think it is.

Let me explain. Your son is going through a hard time in school and often comes home angry and frustrated. You call your therapist for advice who brilliantly assesses the situation and lays out a series of steps you need to take with various options and alternate outcomes.

You are eternally grateful.

But then you think, "Wouldn't it be easier if the therapist raised my child?"

The truth is that the therapist has as much angst with her own son as you have with yours - if not more. Every parent since Adam says at least 453 times, "Where did I go wrong?" Sometimes they say it in one day!

This idea of letting "experts" raise our children is not new, however. The Russian communists tried it. They actually developed boarding schools run by people trained to raise children. In other words, kids raised by professionals.

But here's the mistake, which if you are a parent you may have already realized, and which the communists eventually found out. When it comes to parenting, and similarly to leadership, there is no such thing as a professional.

It's not knowledge that qualifies you to be a parent or a leader, but caring. You are the best person to raise your children because no one cares about them as much as you do.

The ramifications of this are enormous. Your children are better off with parents that don't know what they are doing but care, rather than the other way around.


I recently had a conversation with an old friend. We had been discussing her children and how they seem to have turned out OK after all, and that all that worry was for nothing.

I remarked "No," they turned out OK because of all that worry.

Children need for their parents to get it right, but it's more important that they worry whether they are getting it right. Your concern tells your children that they are important. That's the most important message you can give them.

The truth is, however, that you will never get it right unless you care.

This story is a little gruesome, but taught me an amazing lesson. When I was single I happened to babysit the children of some friends of mine. While on duty their son caught his little finger in the door (ouch). The parents rushed home and frantically drove the boy to the hospital.

Shortly later they called me, as they needed me to find the end of the finger so that they might be able to sew it back. By this point I was joined by one or two other friends in the house and we all searched high and low but couldn't find it even though we knew which door it was.

With no other choice, the mother came home and simply ran to the door and with no more than a simple glance, picked up the necessary body part and ran back out the door to the hospital.

It's the person who really cares who will find the answers.

It's not to say Pinchas didn't care, but that was not his essential virtue. He was, when all is said and done, an expert in one particular crisis. So is a therapist.

The exact same is true in leadership. Joshua was chosen because he, above all others, cared the most about his people.

The cab driver may know what the country needs and he may also know what your children need, but neither will do better under his leadership. He wouldn't do any better a job because he doesn't care enough to do anything about it other than talk about it. Like Joshua, your care and interest will carry you farther than anyone else can.

P.S. the boy's finger was successfully re-attached.

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Question 1: Do you think people who don't vote should be fined?

Question 2: Do you think people should pass some kind of proficiency test to be allowed to vote?

Question 3: What do you think should disqualify a person from running for public office?

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