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Shabbat Parashat Bamidbar 5773

Ein Ayah: A Leader from Within; A Leader from Without

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:279)

Gemara: In a place where there is no man, that is where you should be a man. Abaye said: This implies that in a place where there is a man, you should not be a man there. Isn’t this the obvious inference? The inference is needed for a case where the two people are of equal standing.


Ein Ayah: The dynamics of a generation cause there to be, within the populace, a person who is great enough to lead. However, there are times that the generation as a collective is not prepared to have someone from within its midst who stands out among the rest for the task of leadership who shares the characteristics of the people of the generation. Yet, there may be someone in the generation who is great enough to lead, just that he is not influenced by the people, while he is capable of influencing them.

If there is a choice between the two types of leaders, it is better to have one who shares characteristics of the people. Since he is close enough to the people he will know how to lead them in the proper way. However, if it is “a place where there is no man,” i.e., there is no one who is fit for the mantle from within the milieu, then one who is somewhat distinct should “be a man” there and assume leadership even though he does not relate smoothly with the people because he is on a higher level than they. If there were someone who was influenced by the generation who could handle the job, the “outsider” should not lead.

It is possible that the one who is influenced by and capable of influencing the generation and the one who is only able to influence it are both on the same level. The difference between them would then not be in regard to level. Rather one is more capable of picking up on that which is around him, while the other stands firmly by his own sense of matters. Despite the latter’s lack of flexibility, he could still influence others due to his stature. In such a case, we are to give the precedence to the one who is sensitive to the characteristics of the generation. Such a person is able to take matters that he picks up in the nation’s psyche and turn them around for the better.

In contrast, the one who is aloof will try to distance those things that he feels should not be present. When he sometimes fails in that effort, the generation will lose significantly. Rather it is better when the leader shares characteristics with the generation, which is good unless the characteristic finds expression in something that is forbidden by the Torah.

Only when there is really no one within the style of the generation who is capable of leading with justice and fear of Hashem in a proper way, are things ripe for the outsider to be inspired to use his spirit to save Israel (see Shmuel II, 23:3). In that case, his leadership is worthwhile because it is possible for him to put a new spirit in the nation and influence them. Then they can start to develop the characteristics that he possesses, based on the path of life that comes from the perfect ways of Hashem.  

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