Kenneth Cohen

A Real Leader

The Torah commentators use the story of Korach’s rebellion, as an indication of how difficult it is to be a leader in Israel. If the greatest man whoever lived had his detractors, then it is clear that every leader will have his share of troublemakers.

There is an old joke, where a congregation is asked if they would accept an eighty year old with a speech impediment as their rabbi. They replied that they certainly would not accept such a person for that position. The reply to them was, “You just turned down Moshe Rabbeinu!”

Being a leader in Israel was never meant to be a popularity contest. The focus must always be the needs of the community. This is true for politicians and rabbis, (even though some rabbis act like politicians!)
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter had a great quote in connection with the role of rabbi. “A rabbi whose community does not disagree with him, is not really a rabbi. A rabbi who fears his community, is not really a man!

We see numerous examples from Tanach describing how difficult it is to be a leader in Israel. Shaul Hamelech is an example of one who was unable to meet the challenges of directing Am Yisrael.

When King David danced with great passion when the Holy Ark was returned to Jerusalem, he was reprimanded by his wife, Michal. (She was the daughter of Shaul.) She felt that such wild dancing was not appropriate for the king of Israel.

David told Michal that her father lost his kingdom because he cared too much about satisfying public opinion. He only cares about doing what was right in the eyes of G-d. David was a great leader who had the correct motivation. All leaders should follow his example. One can never satisfy everyone, but acting according to Hashem’s will, is the guarantee of success.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at