Righteousness & Lefteousness

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Va'eira

There are two models of leadership that have gone through the history of our people. There is the leader who serves as a peacemaker who will reconcile at any expense. He or she radiates and is driven by chesed and can not stand to see another Jew in pain. This leader cannot abide divisiveness and considers unity the ultimate goal. Surely we need men and women of generous spirit to serve as our leaders in order to keep the peace and harmony of the Jewish people.

But then there is another type of leader. The moralist, a person driven solely by justice and truth. He or she leads with a sense of righteousness. This leader is offended by and cannot tolerate any wrong or lack of integrity. He or she is also driven, but driven by truth. The moral leader helps maintain the high standards of the Jewish people and creates a new benchmark for the moral standard of the world.

Both leaders are driven by love and a sense of commitment to serving the Jewish people. These two leaders will not get along.

They will be at odds with each other because very often, for the sake of peace, the truth must be compromised and for the sake of truth we must sometimes forego peace. Nevertheless, we cannot choose. We need both types of leadership; one without the other won’t work. Both jobs need to be done.

The best example of this bifurcation is Moses and his brother Aaron. Moses was brought up in the House of Pharaoh. He was not driven, initially by his Judaism. He walked out amongst the labor camps of Egypt and saw what no one else seemed to notice or care about. People, Jews, were enslaved. They were living in sub-human conditions with an unreasonable production schedule. Moses demanded morality and fairness. 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 led by truth and justice.

His brother, Aaron lived among his people and tried to keep them unified. When there was argument and strife he would do anything to make peace. He loved peace.

When these two great men had to work together and 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. He said (Tehilim 85) “Kindness and Truth met, righteousness and peace kissed.” Kindness and peace refers to Aaron; truth and righteousness refers to Moses.

Moses and Aaron embraced on that mountain. Two great leaders, two different styles hugged and kissed each other. Though there were differences they agreed on one goal: The Jews needed to be freed, these two great forces needed to work together.

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. But 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 ?

If we want a Land that is exactly what must happen. Truth and love must kiss.

This is not just about leaders; we too must do our part. We must resist the urge to pigeonhole people and to label someone with views different from our own as the opposition. We have to be able to work together and to realize that G-d needs many different kinds of people.

Truthfully, 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 right way. Each of us has to find a balance between the two, because both needs are real.

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 people 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.” G-d, in His relationship with us, is a convergence of traits. We understand this as 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 ascent. 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.

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