The Lessons of Leadership

Yael Eckstein  |  March 15, 2022

Moses also brought Aaron’s sons forward and put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet.  — Leviticus 8:24

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. This week, our Torah portion is Tzav, which means “command,” from Leviticus 6:1–8:36.

What makes a great leader? For me, when I think about leadership, my first thought is about my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory. Obviously, he had tremendous courage. At a time when Jews and Christians did not cooperate and most Jews didn’t trust Christians, my father stepped forward in a way that surprised many people. The courage to do something, knowing that you will be publicly criticized for it amazes me every time I think about it.

But it wasn’t just his courage and willingness to do something new. Even after The Fellowship was built into a large and successful international organization, my father never stopped working. He worked extremely hard. He spent long hours in the office and traveled extensively, away from the family, to get The Fellowship off the ground.

But even these traits would not have made him successful without a third ingredient of leadership which I try to learn from every day. My father listened. He paid attention to what others around him were saying, and even more, he listened carefully to every person he helped, the poor people who came to our door and the needy Holocaust survivors he would visit regularly.

The Lessons of Leadership

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses consecrated the priests, Aaron and his sons, bestowing on them the special status that continues to this day through all direct descendants of Aaron. As part of this ceremony, the Bible tells us that Moses put blood from a ram on the right earlobe, right hand, and right foot of each of Aaron and his sons.

From that day forward, Aaron and his sons would serve as the spiritual leadership of the nation of Israel. By consecrating the priests in this way, Moses, at God’s instruction, sent them a message about how to fill their role and provided them with lesson ins leadership.

Specifically, a leader must lead in three ways. He must lead with his feet, willing to step forward and go boldly where others may hesitate. A leader must lead with his hands, setting the pace for diligence and work ethic. And a leader must lead with his ears, listening with sensitivity and wisdom to others.

My father, of blessed memory, embodied these lessons of leadership, which continue to guide me and serve as my constant example.

Your Turn:

Think of the leaders who you most admire. What characteristics of those people do you feel embody leadership? What about your own leadership style?

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