Piny Hackenbroch
Senior Rabbi Woodside Park Synagogue, London

Trump is just the tip of the iceberg

The ghost train of Project Fear and Intolerance finally came off the rails or arrived at its final destination depending on your persuasion when Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill.

Donald Trump has railed for months, convincing his loyal right-wing followers both those in the Senate and those white supremacist supporters that the election was not lost but rather stolen from them. It was incumbent on them to stop this travesty of democracy and justice. This in turn led to a two-pronged approach, the attempted coup, utilizing the democratic channel by Republican senators to overturn the election result. The second pronged attack was an attempted coup by radical supporters to incite violence against the very democracy that the president was supposed to uphold.

In a couple of weeks, Donald Trump will no longer be the president. But it would be naïve to believe that he and the issues will simply ride into the sunset. We in Britain and the rest of the world that have watched from the side-lines in disbelief should not be under any illusions. This is not a uniquely American phenomenon; the world is very much a global village. They used to say, such is the special relationship between the US and Britain that when America catches a cold, Britain sneezes.

The world at large has become one with greater polarized opposites, binary choices, a world that seems to leave little room for nuance. We live in a world where leaders see it as a sign of weakness rather than strength to be willing to listen to others that are different from themselves. It is perceived as a sign of weakness for leaders to accept that others that are different from us may sometimes be right or to have the courage to change course and even have the humility to acknowledge that sometimes we may have got it wrong.  Where does such a mindset come from, arguably if you believe you and your followers are superior to others then you can never hold the other as anything but inferior and wrong.

The danger of such a blinkered culture is that it has the potential to percolate through all echelons of society. No longer would members of a society accept authority as being correct if it differed from them or their weltanschauung. It has all the makings for a total breakdown of society as we know it.

In the Torah portion this week we are introduced and learn of the greatest leader that ever lived. Yet surprisingly Moshe’s greatest attribute was his ability to display humility, the greater he became the humbler he became. It is a lesson the world and our leaders would do well to consider.

Moshe by the burning bush is told by G-d no less, to accept the mantle of leadership and take the Jewish people out of Egypt to freedom. Rather than accepting graciously the invitation, Moshe for a week argues with G-d that it should not be him. Moshe argues that Aaron is better suited and that he is hampered by a stutter. Yet when he is finally persuaded to become the leader it seems nothing has changed Moshe is the same person as before. Yet there was a killer blow that G-d told Moshe that swayed him.

G-d told Moshe simply “I will be with you”- Moshe now could become a leader with confidence knowing that being a leader meant recognizing first and foremost it was not all up to him. Once a leader recognizes their limitations and indicates a willingness to listen and be guided by G-d or take advice from others then such a person is truly worthy of becoming a leader. But when a leader believes that they have all the answers and no questions then they will not take guidance from anyone else then such a leader is doomed to failure

As Andy Stanley observed, “Leaders who refuse to listen, will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing helpful to say.”

About the Author
Rabbi Hackenbroch is Senior Rabbi of Woodside Park Synagogue, London, UK, as well as a commercial mediator, Holocaust Educator and sought after speaker.
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