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  • Torah Reading: Tzav
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Matot(Numbers 30:2-32:42)

Privacy Please

In this week's Torah portion, God tells Moses that the Jewish people should wage war against the people of Midian. Moses then gave them specific instructions on how they should wage this war. When they returned from the battle, however, Moses learned that they failed to follow his exact instructions and:

"Moses... and all the leaders of the assembly went out to meet them outside the camp. Moses was angry with the commanders of the army..." (Numbers 31:13-14)


Even though Moses was clearly upset with those who were in charge of the battle, he did something so vitally important in leadership - he went out to meet them outside the camp. Moses practiced one of the most important concepts in dealing with people - and that's always to reprimand people in private. In fact, the blockbuster best-selling book entitled "The One Minute Manager" devotes much time to this powerful principal.

Sadly, people in a position of authority don't like doing this because they have a strong ego-based need to put their power on display for all to see. So, in an effort of to show everyone that "they're the boss," they actually like to reprimand people in front of others. This makes you no better than a school yard bully and clearly makes you much more of a coward than a leader.

Ironically, people act this way because they wrongly believe that they'll actually gain respect by occasionally (or regularly) letting everyone know that they're in charge. But great leaders have long recognized that people truly want to do the right thing and publicly adding salt to their wounds is just plain stupid.

Parents are the most important "leaders" in the world. God entrusts them with the responsibility of raising His children, and He certainly doesn't want His children to be publicly ridiculed. There are certainly times that parents have a rush of frustration when their child does something wrong and have a powerful urge to yell at them for all to hear. But this isn't at all how to discipline or educate your child. Even though Moses was angry with his commanders, he didn't let it get the better of him. He chose to go outside the camp so he wouldn't embarrass them in front of their men.

There are countless times throughout the day that you'll be in a position of being a "boss." Whether as a customer in a store, a patron at a restaurant, or hiring a landscaper - for a brief period of time you can act any way you choose. While you might feel a need to let these people know "who's in charge," it will only make you look like a fool. And if there is something they did that you're upset about, then let them know without anyone else being able to hear. This will not only make them actually listen to what you're saying, but it will also build your own self-esteem by not living in the fantasy world that you can get taller by publicly knocking someone else down.

July 15, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Anonymous, August 3, 2016 12:20 PM

Excellent article and very well written. Thanks for posting!

(6) David Gr, July 23, 2011 3:14 PM

Praise in public, criticize in private

This is taught in the military as well. And you do it face to face not by email, memo, etc. When counseling try to start with something positive. You should try to teach not tear down someone. It's the right thing to do. But if you must, think of it this way. The person you humiliate in public today may have the opportunity to return that to you in the future.

(5) Joel Batalsky, July 4, 2010 3:22 PM

Life's Lessons

Life is the problem, judism is the answer.

(4) shorty, July 15, 2009 12:58 PM

leadership via email...

Well, not really leadership, more like "wannabe leadership". In an effort to rebuke privately, many people hide behind their computers to express their disapproval or in many cases express opnions. and a little too much if you ask me. not every opinion needs to be expressed.

(3) Maria Dodoc, July 12, 2009 3:06 PM


Thank you!

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