A Truly Righteous Leader

Yael Eckstein  |  October 7, 2022

Man blessing his sons

When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
    when the wicked rule, the people groan.
—Proverbs 29:2

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

Have you noticed how much is going on in the world these days? We definitely do not live in boring times. The truth is that there is always a lot going on, but it just seems that we are living through a particularly unstable period.

With elections looming in both Israel and the United States, I want to share with you a few lines from the Amidah, the series of blessings and supplications that Jews pray three times every day:

“Restore our judges as they once were, and our advisors (policy-makers) as in earliest times and remove from us all groaning and agony. Reign over us, You, O Lord alone, with kindness and mercy.”

This is a prayer for good and upright leadership. It always struck me that this prayer asks God to remove “all groaning and agony.” The Jewish sages of thousands of years ago who composed this prayer understood that corrupt leadership brings a specific kind of suffering. I believe that the language of this phrase is based on a verse in Proverbs.

A Truly Righteous Leader

We read, “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” Groaning, anacha in Hebrew, indicates despair, and loss of hope.

The groaner is bemoaning his state without believing there is anything he can do to change it. Groaning is associated with corrupt leadership because more than other kinds of suffering, living under corrupt leadership leads people to lose hope for the future.

On the other hand, as the first half of the verse states, “when the righteous thrive the people rejoice.” Notice that the righteous “thrive” in this verse, in contrast to the wicked who “rule.” Here, the verse tells us what to look for in leaders.

A righteous leader has no desire to “rule.” A truly righteous leader wants only to help improve people’s lives, help everyone in society thrive and succeed in freedom. It’s only the power-hungry wicked who seek to “rule” over others.

Let’s all pray that God will help us choose righteous leaders who will help everyone in society thrive and rejoice.

Your Turn:

Let’s pray together for God to send us righteous and God-fearing leaders who will work for the benefit of all.