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Vayigash 5769 — Yehudah's Leadership Model

The real test of any leader is what he does when the chips are down — when times are tough.

At the start of this week’s Torah reading, Vayigash (Genesis 44:18) the situation is grim.  The youngest son, Binyamin (Benjamin), has been arrested for stealing Joseph’s cup.  Joseph, the #2 man in all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Also, unknown to the rest, their brother.

Yehudah (Judah) steps into the leadership role.  He approaches Joseph with the most powerful piece of oratory — and one of the bravest acts — in the entire Torah.  Knowing that if Binyamin were to remain behind it would break their father’s heart, Yehudah pleads with the powerful Egyptian, offering himself in exchange for his brother.  Moved by Yehudah’s sincerity and love for his father, Joseph could no longer maintain the charade, and he is moved to tears and reveals himself, saying, "I am Joseph, your brother."

What a model for leadership!

Yehudah was selfless — he put his family, in particular his father, ahead of himself.

Yehudah was brave — he was willing to face being a slave in Egypt, perhaps never to see his wife and children again.

Yehudah was intelligent — he understood the situation well.

Yehudah was decisive — he did not hesitate, he knew what needed to be done.

Yehudah was diplomatic — Yehuda prevailed not because of physical force, but because he said the right things and took the right approach.

Yehudah was effective — he accomplished his goals and brought about a happy ending.

If we only had leadership like that in Israel and among the Palestinians we would have a peace agreement in 3 months.  Instead both sides have been suffering from the plague of ineffective leadership.  May God help us find leadership on both sides that can negotiate peace instead of navigating war.

Rav Barry

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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