Judaism can be rich, meaningful and life changing when understood properly. Today many of us seek examples of leadership in the Jewish world. Here are 5 powerful leaders who will shape Judaism through their books and personalities and will give coherence, balance, unity and understanding for all those who are looking for their own path of life in today’s day and age as a Jew.
1) Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon
The Rambam’s life is rich of examples of true leadership. In his writings he always looks for the truth and is never afraid to learn from any man. His works are full of quotations from Aristotle and Aristotelian philosophers like Ibn Rash-ad, Alferabi and others. In the dark ages he looked for enlightenment and at a time when his rabbinical peers were shunning the secular world he embraced it. He showed that one can live in a modern society and still be orthodox and that one can be rational and also be religious. He taught us that Instead of fearing the intellect, fear superstition. Jewish scholarship seems flourish and do well when it embraces his personality and when it doesn’t it falters and tumbles into confusion. Although Aristotle’s philosophy may not be totally valid for the modern philosopher, the lesson which the Rambam taught us is; to use the greatest gift which G-d has bestowed us; the human rational mind. Because of his golden example he is always; A leader of tomorrow
2) Rabbi Yitzchok Abrarbanel
Yitzchok Don Judah Abrarbanel (1437–1508) despite his heavy responsibilities as a statesman he found time to write a colossal work on all the books of the Tanach; Torah Neviim Ketuvim called “Abrarbanel” This work is so important; in it he challenges every scholar, debunks popular myths and is passionate for the truth. He is one of the only Jewish scholars who quotes Christian scholars and weighs their opinions equally. He never takes an opinion because of the prestige of its author. No book on the Torah is as comprehensive and decisive as his work. Sometimes, he will actually say somebody else is wrong! Irrespective of the person’s name or position. He had decisive powers which are almost unheard of anymore. What an example of how we should learn and who we should follow! A seeker of truth and a fearless leader. That is a leader of tomorrow.
3) Rabbi Yakov Emden
Rabbi Yakov Emden was a leader par excel-lance. In a world that ran to coronate Sabbati Tzvi (ys), he stood firm ground and would voice his opinion about the false messiah. He feared no man in Halacha and towered above all around him. All his arguments are sound and just. They are never based on mere opinion but very textual and extremely rational. He embraces the revealed aspects of the Torah as well as the concealed such as the kabbalah and incorporates them when relevant. He possessed critical powers rarely found among his contemporaries who generally took things for granted and is one of the only scholars that will give critique on works which others hold untouchable. He was strictly Orthodox, without deviating from tradition, however, he was never afraid to give scholarly opinion on anything which came his way. That is a leader of tomorrow.
4) Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schnersohn
Rabbi Schnershon, last of the seven chabbad Rebbeim, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe was a trailblazer for Jewish awareness in today’s society. He always expressed that every Jew should be embraced and uplifted. His message was well received. Indeed, one need not be a Lubavitcher to perform outreach. Today outreach has become common place in all sects of Judaism. In his merit, many have returned to Torah. To the ancient question G-d asks Kein after slaying his brother able; “Am I my brother’s Keeper?” the Rebbe told every Jew to say; Yes, I am! That’s what made him; a leader of tomorrow
5) Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitcheck
Rabbi Soloveitchek otherwise known as “The Rav”, was a modern day hero in the Jewish world. He was the scion of many heavy weight Torah scholars from a world which shunned secular academia. Nevertheless he enrolled himself in the Friedrich Wilhelm University. He studied the works of European philosophers, and became a lifelong student of neo-Kantian thought. He held both disciplines firmly in his hand and fashioned Torah lessons which are coherent with modern philosophy, historical accuracy, all in the tongue of his predecessors known as the Brisker Method. He is a role-model for the simple Jew of today who wishes to embraces a Judaism which is logically sound, rich, moving and meaningful. He never considers himself holier than others and never insists that you listen to him alone. He never says “Kablu Dati”; receive my opinion! Something which is, unfortunately, is so common today. His scholarship often combines the Sephardi or chassidic world with the Ashkenazim through by virtue of logical analysis and is a bridge for unity in Judaism. He demonstrated that a philosophical analysis in Torah can bridge Jews of all backgrounds. That makes him; a leader of tomorrow.
All Rabbanim and leaders make a impact for better or worse G-d forbid. As we approach a new age, let us keep these leaders who made a difference at the forefront of our examples of true leadership!