A Hasidic Jew once came to the Rebbe for a private audience. During their conversation, the Rebbe inquired about the Hasid’s study class scheduled for that evening.
"I can't make the class tonight, I have a ballgame," he replied.
The Rebbe said, "But at the class you have a chance to be a player, not merely a spectator."
We live in a society constantly engaged in creating followers. Today's social media tools—Twitter, Blogger and Facebook—are all about building a following, to the point that who we follow begins to define who we are.
In stark contrast, the Rebbe encouraged us to be leaders. He showed us that leadership is not reserved only for an elite few, but rather a role which every individual is capable of.
What defines a leader?
The Talmud tells us that it is impossible for a person to sit in a beis medrash, house of study, and not produce a novel idea in Torah. Why so? Because if a person truly devotes himself to his studies, the Talmud says he will inevitably have something to add. If you're truly involved, you're bound to initiate and create.
Indeed, we can all lead; it is simply a matter of how much we care.
Take a look at Moses. He grew up in King Pharaoh’s home—life was good for him—but he was not content with personal security. He stepped out of the palace, he made it his business to observe what was happening with the Jewish people, and when he saw their pain, he was deeply bothered. He cared! When he noticed an Egyptian abuse a fellow Jew, he protested. He didn’t rationalize that his speaking out would not necessarily achieve anything. Indeed, when you care, you unleash a drive that knows no boundaries. He simply could not watch another Jew suffer! So Moses took action out of pure and genuine concern. Such is the mark of a leader.
Later, when God asks Moses to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, we learn of yet another incredible leadership quality. Moses’ response to the awesome task of commanding the great exodus is authentic and unassuming: “Who am I?” These two qualities—genuine concern and authentic humility—are what make a true leader!
This generation—like none other—has seen a rebirth of caring leaders. Today, thousands of Chabad emissaries serve in leadership positions worldwide, and not because they have a PhD in executive leadership—they don’t. But what they do have, even the best PhD will not offer, and that is real concern, passion, focus, and most importantly, genuine care for the Jewish nation.
This embodies what the Rebbe sought to create: a world of people who care deeply about a cause, thus leading the way to a better and brighter future.
Unearth your passion. Find something you can lead!
Rabbi Mendy Wolf is the educational director for the Institute of American & Talmudic Law, and the director for Project Life, an organization promoting Jewish awareness throughout the business community in NYC. Contact Rabbi Mendy with feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.