Leading with Love
Yael Eckstein | February 20, 2023
Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. — Judges 4:4
This month marks the fourth anniversary of the passing of my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. In his honor, I offer you a selection of devotions on the spiritual importance of legacy and leadership.
A story is told about a circus clown and an elephant who sat on the clown’s hat. The clown began waving his hands and jumping up and down, all while yelling at the elephant to move. The elephant didn’t budge.
Frustrated, the clown kicked the elephant, and then grabbed his foot in pain. The elephant ignored him. Finally, the clown reached his hands under the edge of the massive animal to try to lift it.
Feeling defeated, the clown sat down a few feet away and opened a bag of peanuts. Suddenly, the elephant, having smelled the treats, stood up and walked over to the clown, revealing the crushed clown hat where he was sitting.
The lesson from this story is that when we want to get someone to do something — be it our children, our spouse, co-workers, or friends — we’re better off giving the person a good reason to want to do it than if we try to force our will on them.
Leading with Love
This story reminded me of a teaching from the Jewish sages about the biblical prophetess, Deborah, who was the only woman to lead the people of Israel during the period of the Judges. We read, “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.”
Deborah is identified as “the wife of Lappidoth.” The name Lappidoth means “wicks,” and the Jewish sages explain that “Lappidoth” was a nickname that Deborah’s husband earned.
According to Jewish tradition, Deborah was known as an extraordinary and wise woman. But her husband was not as successful. He lacked ambition and drive. Even though Deborah was disappointed, she didn’t criticize or berate her husband. Instead, she made lappidoth, or wicks, and asked her husband to bring them to the Tabernacle as a donation to be used for the menorah lamp.
The experience of visiting the Tabernacle changed Deborah’s husband. After bringing the wicks to the house of God and being inspired by seeing the Temple menorah, he decided to go home and make even thicker wicks so that the light would burn more brightly. He became famous as Lappidoth, the maker of the special wicks that were used in God’s house, the Tabernacle.
Deborah led her husband to a position of respect and success without putting him down or making him feel bad. She is the model for leading with love and encouragement.
That is powerful leadership. That is feminine leadership — nurturing and encouraging, inspiring growth through love.
Who might you motivate this week? More importantly, how?