Making Wise Decisions
Yael Eckstein | February 23, 2023
Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews. — Esther 10:3
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.
There are many challenges leading a large global humanitarian organization like the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. One of the biggest challenges for me, in particular, is that I often have to disappoint people. I’m the kind of person who wants everyone to be happy, everyone to feel heard. But of course, that’s impossible.
Even Moses, the Bible’s quintessential leader, was unpopular at certain times and with certain people. For example, Korah, a leader in the Levite tribe, led a challenge to the leadership of Moses that caused a major crisis. And when the people misbehaved and were punished by God, Moses repeatedly was blamed.
So how do I deal with it? Well, the first lesson is accepting the fact that, regardless of the decision, someone will be disappointed. Of course, I make mistakes, but I don’t judge the quality of my decisions based on the disappointment of a minority who are unhappy. When a decision needs to be made, I pray, I think it through, and I do what I believe is right in the eyes of God.
Making Wise Decisions
We see this same leadership lesson at the end of the Book of Esther, where we read, “Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.”
In Hebrew, the words “held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews” can also be read as “held in high esteem by most of his fellow Jews.” The Jewish sages highlight this and comment that there was a minority of Jews, many of them vocal and prominent, who were critical of Mordecai’s leadership.
Leaders are charged with making wise decisions — not popular ones. A leader who no one likes won’t have much of a following, but a leader who everyone likes probably isn’t really leading at all, either. There always needs to be a delicate balance between being sensitive to the feelings of others and doing what is best, even if unpopular. Mordecai got the balance right, and the fact that most people — but not all — loved him is the greatest tribute to his success.
Whether you are a leader out in public or just in your own private family life, you too will have to make unpopular decisions. It’s impossible to make everyone happy all of the time. As you pray and consider your next decision, remember that someone being unhappy with you is not a sign of a bad decision. It goes with the territory.