Clap Your Hands!

by | Dec 31, 2010 | 0 comments

Jewish history has shown two models for leadership. There is the leader who serves as a peacemaker and will negotiate, compromise, and reconcile for peace at any expense. He or she radiates and is driven by chesed and absolutely cannot stand to see another Jew in pain. This leader cannot abide divisiveness and considers unity the ultimate goal. Thank G-d, there are leaders of peace and generous spirit to serve our people.

There is another type of leader. The moralist, who is driven solely by justice and truth. He or she leads with a sense of righteousness. This leader cannot tolerate and is offended by and any lack of integrity. He or she is driven by truth. This moral leader maintains the high ethical standards of the Jewish people while raising the benchmark standard for the morality of the world. Where would be without our teachers that guide us to truth?

These two leaders will not get along.

For the sake of peace the truth must often be compromised and for the sake of truth we must sometimes forego peace. It is ugly when leaders don’t get along, yet we need both types of leaders.

The best example of this bifurcation is Moses and his brother Aaron. Moses was brought up in the House of Pharaoh. He was not initially driven by his Judaism. He was driven by a sense of right. He walked out amongst the labor camps of Egypt and saw what no one else seemed to see or care about. People, Jews, were enslaved. They were living in sub-human conditions with an unreasonable production schedule. If they didn’t produce a quota they were beaten and killed. Moses demanded morality and fairness of the palace. His sense of justice caused him to react by killing an Egyptian and eventually he fled his luxurious lifestyle in the palace to the desert. He always led by truth and justice.

His brother, Aaron lived among his people and tried to keep the peace. He worked hard so that they should be unified and remain one people. When there was argument and strife he would do anything to make peace. He loved peace.

These two great men had to work together to bring about the emancipation of the Jewish people. G-d said to Aaron, “Go out to the desert and meet your brother Moses on the Mountain of G-d.” Moses was apprehensive and so was Aaron. They had two different styles, how could they converge?

David, the great poet of Israel, commented on this meeting (Tehilim 85): “Kindness and Truth met, righteousness and peace kissed.” Kindness and peace refer to Aaron; truth and righteousness to Moses.

Moses and Aaron embraced on that mountain. Two great leaders with two different styles hugged and kissed each other and agreed on one goal: The Jews needed to be freed, there needed to be a geulah!

Here we are again. Today, we once again need a geulah. We have always had two types of leaders. At times, it seems, G-d decreed that the two leaders should work independently. But in Egypt as long as the two designated leaders remained separate, the oppression of the Jewish people continued. This is true today.

Imagine if the Rambam and the Raivad, the Vilna Gaon and the Baal Shem Tov, Rav Yonason Eibeshitz and Rav Yaacov Emden, Rav Kook and Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld would have embraced each other.

When the State of Israel was established, we needed leaders who couldn’t tolerate the secularization of the Holy Land. We needed leaders who would teach us to scream Shabbos at those who desecrated it, not because it helped but because it hurt.

We also needed great leaders who would recognize the holiness hidden in each Jew’s soul, who would run to the Kibbutzim to dance with the atheists and teach them Torah. How could these leaders embrace one another? How could they come together on the Mountain of Hashem? But If we want a Geulah that is exactly what must happen. Truth and love must kiss.

We are all leaders and we too must do our part. We have to be able to work with different kinds of Jews and realize that G-d needs many different models to bring about redemption. No G-d fearing Jew is the opposition.

Even within ourselves, most of us are pulled in both directions. We live with an internal tension. Should we stand up for the truth, scream and yell for what we believe is right or should we keep the peace? There is no absolute right way. We have to find a balance between the two. The Moses and Aaron within us must hug each other!

When men put on their Tefilin in the morning, they wrap the strap around their middle finger. This is a symbol of the bond that exists between G-d and the Jewish people. It is as if G-d puts a wedding ring on us every single day. Many recite the following verses while wrapping the strap around their finger. “I will betroth you to Me forever, I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, justice, kindness, and mercy.” Our relationship with G-d, is a convergence of traits. We understand this and accept this as this is the essence of a true relationship, “and you should know your G-d.” This is what G-d is about, this is what the Jewish people are about and this is what we are all about. If we bring it all together we will experience the final geulah.

Chasidic leaders can often be seen clapping their hands together while praying. This practice has its source in the Kabbalah, symbolically bringing together the forces of the right and the left. These two extremes stand separate and apart preventing the prayers of Israel from ascending. The Rebbe puts his right hand and left hand together. The right and the left embrace. The diverse forces of the world converge in the heart full of prayer. Those prayers, complete now, leave the heart and can stand before the Holy One and plead the needs of our people. Only then will G-d answer our prayers.

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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