Follow that Leader

The Fellowship  |  February 28, 2020

Female IDF trainees
Female IDF trainees

The shepherds are senseless
   and do not inquire of the LORD;
so they do not prosper
   and all their flock is scattered. — Jeremiah 10:21

As we remember the anniversary of Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s passing this month, we offer you a selection of his devotional thoughts on leadership. Learn how you can honor Rabbi Eckstein’s lifework and legacy through our Wings of Eagles ministry.

What qualities do you most look for in a leader? Do you want someone who is attuned to the overall needs of the organization, or someone who is more concerned with keeping the status quo? Do you want someone who is well-qualified and competent, or someone who has been handed the position without truly earning it? Do you want a leader who is more concerned about power and position, or one who will work for the benefit of others?

Sound like trick questions, don’t they? No one wants a leader who is more concerned about power and position, and who hasn’t earned the job. But for the Jews living back at the time of Jesus, the Sadducees were those kinds of leaders. One of three major Jewish sects in the first century C.E., the Sadducees were the most powerful. Their power and authority stemmed from their control of the Temple. Most of the priests at that time were Sadducees — and their position as priest had been passed down from father to son, rather than attained by merit. Therefore, many had become corrupt.

In addition, the Sadducees were the political liaisons to the hated Roman Empire. They tended to be wealthier and more aristocratic than the other Jewish groups at the time. Josephus, a respected and noted historian of that time, recorded that the Sadducees “have none but the rich on their side.” They had a general disregard for the commoner, and in turn, the common people didn’t hold them in high regard.

This group, more than any other, probably had the greatest opportunity to influence the existing power structure for the benefit of others. They were wealthy, well-connected, and powerful. As priests, they also had a responsibility to the people to lead them in a way that honored and reflected God. And they failed miserably to lead the people in a godly way and to use their influence positively. Rather than using their position and their authority for the good of others, they used it to benefit themselves. Rather than glorify God, they glorified themselves. And when the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., the Sadducees lost their power base and ceased to exist.

God has given each one of us a unique position and opportunity to influence and help others — whether it’s at home, in the workplace, in our neighborhoods, or even through a worldwide organization like The Fellowship. We have a responsibility to use the positions and opportunities entrusted to us to help others and work for their benefit — not our own.

When we do that, I truly believe that people will want to follow and go where we are leading.

You can honor the lifework and legacy of Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein by participating in the Rabbi Eckstein Memorial Freedom Flight, bringing Jews from Ukraine and countries of distress home to Israel.