Sharona Margolin Halickman

Where are the exemplary leaders?

In Parshat Yitro, Moshe is overwhelmed with judging the nation on his own. Yitro, Moshe’s father in law noticed this and told Moshe that he will wear himself out if he continues to do everything on his own.

Yitro’s suggestion is found in Shmot 18:21-23:

You must seek out from among all the people “anshei chayil”, capable men, “yirei Elokim”, God fearing men, “anshei emet”. men of truth, “sonei vatza” who despise unjust gain. You must then appoint them over the people as officers of thousands, officers of hundreds, officers of fifties and officers of tens. Let them judge the people at all times. Every major problem they will bring to you, and every minor problem they shall judge by themselves. It will thus be easier for you since they will bear the burden with you. If you do this and God commands you to do so, you will be able to survive, and also this entire people will come to their place in peace.

Moshe listened to his father in law (Shmot 18-25-26):

Moshe chose “anshei chayil”, capable men from among all Yisrael and appointed them leaders over the people; officers of thousands, officers of hundreds, officers of fifties and officers of tens. They judged the people at all times. The difficult problems they would bring to Moshe, and the simple problems they would judge by themselves.

Rashi explains the meanings of these characteristics:

“Anshei Chayil”, capable men who are wealthy and do not need to ingratiate themselves nor show favoritism.

Chizkuni adds that they were brave men who were able to handle the work and not be afraid of the people.

Ramban points out that “Anshei Chayil” are strong and quick just like the “Eshet Chayil”, woman of valor in Mishlei (Proverbs) who is strong and quick with taking care of her household tasks.

Rashi continues:

“Anshei Emet”, men of truth who command confidence, who are trusted and listened to.

“Sonei Vatza”, hate unjust gain, they “despise” their own property when they can obtain it only through litigation. As it says in Bava Batra 58b, “Any judge from whom property is taken through litigation is not fit to be a judge.” A judge should be extremely sensitive to the possibility that he may be in possession of something that he is not entitled to, that the case should never even get to court.

Rashbam adds that bribery and robbery are always called vatza.

We see from here that Moshe sought out good and honest leaders and judges and he found many who were able to help him in judging the nation.

Why is it that today we are having such a difficult time finding honest leaders and judges?

There are so many scandals in the news that even if there are some good leaders, we don’t hear about them because when you are a law abiding citizen, you don’t usually make the news.

With the Israeli elections coming up soon, we really need to search out good candidates and focus on the prayer of “Hashiva Shofteinu”, “Restoration of Justice” and hope and pray that good, honest people will lead us:

Restore our judges as in earliest times and our counselors as at first, remove from us sorrow and groan; and reign over us- You, God, alone- with kindness and compassion, and justify us through judgment. Blessed are You, God, the King Who loves righteousness and judgment.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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