Judaism can be rich, meaningful and life-changing when understood properly. Many of us often seek examples of leadership in the Jewish world. Here are 5 powerful leaders who will continue to 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. While still in the dark ages he looked for enlightenment. 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 Jewish. That one can be rational and also be religious. He taught not to fear the intellect but superstition. Jewish scholarship seems to 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 valid for the modern philosopher, the lesson which the Rambam taught us is; to use the greatest gift which G-d has bestowed on man; the 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 colossal works on all the books of the Tanach; Torah Neviim Ketuvim. They are called “Abrarbanel”. In this work, he challenges every scholar, debunks popular myths, and is passionate about the truth. He is one of the only Jewish scholars who will quote Christian scholars and weighs their opinions equally. He never takes an opinion because of the prestige of its author. No commentary on the Torah is as comprehensive and decisive as his work. He often disagrees with authorities irrespective of prestige or position. He had decisive powers which were almost unheard of in the Torah world! As a seeker of truth and fearless leader. He is a leader of tomorrow.
3) Rabbi Yaakov Emden
Rabbi Yakov Emden was a leader par excel-lance. In a world that ran to coronate Sabbati Tzvi, he stood firm and would voice his opinion about the false messiah. He feared no man in Judaic Law and towered above all around him. All his arguments are sound and just. They are never based on mere opinion but are rather textual and extremely rational. He embraces the revealed aspects of the Torah as well as the concealed and incorporates them when relevant. He possessed critical powers rarely found among his contemporaries. While never deviating from tradition, he was never afraid to give a scholarly opinion on anything which came his way. That is a leader of tomorrow.
4) Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schnersohn
Rabbi Schneerson, last of the seven Chabad Rebbeim, is known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He was a trailblazer for Jewish awareness in today’s world. He always expressed that every Jew should be embraced and uplifted. His message was well received. Today, one does not have to be a Lubavitcher to perform outreach. Today outreach has become commonplace in all sects of Judaism. In his merit, many have returned to their roots. 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 Soloveitchik, otherwise known as “The Rav”, is a modern day hero in the Jewish world. He was the scion of many heavyweight Torah scholars. Although he came from a world which shunned secular academia, he nevertheless enrolled 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 and historical accuracy. All of this was done using the teaching method of his predecessors called 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. His scholarship often combines the Sephardi or Chassidic world with the Ashkenazi by virtue of logical analysis and thereby creates 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.
Leaders of the past are as numerous as the stars in the sky. Nevertheless, the aforementioned dynamic leaders continue to make an impact on who we are in these modern times. As we approach a new age, let us keep these leaders who made a difference at the forefront of our examples in true leadership!