Talmud this Shabbat: Is it Possible for a Leader to Be Effective–and Loved by All?


Consider three prime cases in the Torah.

Joseph is effective in challenging times. There is a severe famine in the world. Only Egypt has food because of his wise policies of conserving grain during the seven abundant years. The good news is that Egyptians do not starve to death. The bad news is that they give all their money, their livestock, and their land to Pharaoh, ultimately becoming slaves to Pharaoh. Because of Joseph’s agrarian policies, the first slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt are Egyptians. Joseph is effective, not loved—and the Torah hints that the Egyptians serve up sweet revenge by enslaving Joseph’s descendants.

Moses is likewise effective—and not loved. When he dies, not all of Israel laments his passing. By contrast, when Aaron dies, the Torah is explicit that all of Israel does lament his passing. When we examine the sin of the golden calf, Aaron is ineffective. He does not resist the people’s idolatry. The Torah explicitly blames him for letting the people get out of control. Yet, when he dies, he is mourned by all.

There seems to be a biblical algorithm. An effective leader, who invites people to face hard choices, to make hard decisions, and to live with the consequences, is not beloved by all. The work of real leadership burns tread.

One of our members, who runs a university, tells new university presidents: If you want to be loved, get a dog.

Is it possible to be effective and loved by all? If not, what does that say about us?

Attached are the texts.

See you on Shabbat at 8:30.