Friday, May 11, 2007

Taking Responsibility

R. Yosef Blau has an Op-Ed in this week's The Jewish Press (link):

I believe that in the Jewish religious tradition, accepting responsibility is the fundamental quality required for leadership. In the biblical description of the struggle between Joseph and his brothers, Joseph, the visionary, becomes the vice-ruler of Egypt. Yet when Jacob blesses his children he proclaims the descendants of Judah to be the future kings of Israel. The qualities shown by Judah in the story outweigh the open leadership of Joseph.

Judah makes serious mistakes. He is the originator of the plan to sell his brother. In the account of his relationship with his daughter-in-law Tamar he does not keep his promise nor does he act morally. In each situation, however, he accepts responsibility. Judah publicly acknowledges that Tamar has been more righteous than he.

In order to get his father Jacob’s permission to allow the brothers to take Benjamin with them to Egypt, Judah takes responsibility to ensure that Benjamin will return safely. When Joseph accused Benjamin of theft and demanded that he become his slave, Judah stepped forward and was willing to pay the consequence of his guarantee. He offered himself as Joseph’s slave in his youngest brother’s place...

Jewish tradition neither demands nor expects perfection from Jewish leaders. To be human is to err. “There is no righteous person on this earth who does only good and never sins.” What is critical is how he reacts when he inevitably makes a mistake.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More