Wisdom of Leadership
It's human nature to want to do things our way. We don't like to be told what to do. Yet, in many situations, the wisdom of leadership and authority is necessary and beneficial to keep things organized and guide everyone along the proper path. In this week's Torah portion, Korach and his followers staged a rebellion against Moses' and Aaron's wise and benevolent leadership. God made it very clear that they were wrong, and wants us to learn from their mistake to appreciate the importance and benefit of having leaders.
In our story, some ball-playing kids learn the value of having a leader.
"Who made him king?" thought Larry angrily, as he pounded his fist into his baseball glove. "Who is he to boss us around?"
The object of Larry's resentment was Robert Hall, captain of the Pinewood Eagles junior league baseball team. Larry didn't like the way Robert was always telling everyone - especially him - what to do. Robert always decided the batting order, Robert always told everyone what position to play. As far as Larry was concerned, all of this was unnecessary and unfair.
Why did they even need a captain in the first place? Even though most of the team was younger than Robert, and he did have a lot of baseball experience, they weren't babies, and were certainly capable of working these things out for themselves. And while true, the team had been successful lately and was in fact riding a five-game winning streak, Larry was sure it was much more in spite of Robert, than because of him.
He was lost in these thoughts when he heard someone shouting out his name. Robert again! "Hey Larry, move over to your left! The guy up at bat is a lefty, and he'll probably hit it that way."
Grudgingly, Larry shifted over a few steps as he stewed over the 'king's' latest decree, and dreamed of convincing everyone to 'go on strike' against the captain, until he let them just do things the way he wanted to.
It didn't take long for Larry's dream to come true, without him having to lift a finger, because right before the very next game, the guys got a message that Robert wouldn't be able to make it - he had been hit with the 24-hour flu that was going around. Larry felt bad that the guy was sick, but he was thrilled that now he and his teammates would finally be able to do it 'their way.'
The team assembled as usual before the game to decide the batting order. Everyone stood around just looking at each other for a while, since they were used to Robert telling them what to do. Larry spoke up, "Hey guys, today we get to decide - remember."
"All right!!" the boys shouted, excited about their new freedom. But smiles soon turned to frowns and then snarls as a big argument ensued. "Well, I should bat first, like usual," claimed Jerry.
"Why you? I'm a better hitter," countered Rick. Pretty soon nearly everyone had put in his two cents, and ten minutes later when the umpire called out "Play ball!" they still had no idea what they were doing. With no other choice they decided to just go in alphabetical order, and even that was not so simple since one of the kids who always spelled his name with a 'K' suddenly claimed the real spelling was with a 'C'!
Things were no better when the Eagles ran out to take their positions in the field. Three kids were fighting over who should play shortstop and nobody was willing to play right field. "What's da matter guys? Forgot where you're goin'?" teased the opposing batter, laughing at the chaotic scene in front of his eyes.
Larry cringed and shook his head. Maybe there was something to having a captain after all. Robert did seem to have a knack of knowing the best way to arrange things. As a last resort, the guys decided they would all just take turns, each guy playing a different position every inning. It was one long day on the playing field, and it was a disaster. They lost and lost big - 17 to 3.
As they packed up their equipment, Larry decided he was going to call Robert to see how he was feeling and when he was coming back. He realized that the captain wasn't merely bossing them around, but guiding them wisely. One day of leaderless 'freedom' that turned out to be chaos was quite enough for him.
Q. How did Larry feel at first about Robert's being in charge as team captain?
A. He felt like they didn't want or need anybody telling them what to do.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He saw that having someone who knew what he was doing in charge helped everyone to play better and win.
Q. If Larry's team was doing well under Robert's leadership, why did Larry and his friends reject his authority?
A. It came from a feeling that many people have of not wanting to be under someone's authority, even when they see how it's good for them. People feel as if nobody should tell them what to do.
Q. Is this a positive or a negative trait?
A. On the positive side, it encourages a person to become independent and more competent, and it can be used to reject unqualified or unscrupulous 'leaders.' But on the other side it can make a person stubborn and contributes to the breakdown of order in a group or society, often leaving something far less desirable for everyone in its place.
Q. What types of authority can you think of that are beneficial, yet people sometimes tend to reject it?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is the will of the majority a legitimate way to determine authority and appoint leaders?
A. For certain things it is ideal, such as those things which are merely matters of preference, and have no deeper ethical or value issues involved. However when it comes to values, the majority vote has little relevance, rather these things should be determined be wise leaders chosen for their exemplary character traits, and their deep understanding of the ethical roots of issues as they are revealed to us in the Torah, given to us by God. Even if such determinations are unpopular, we can be confident that nevertheless they are true, and will ultimately benefit everyone. Far better to be spiritually correct than to be 'politically correct.'
Q. How does a person's attitude to authority affect his relationship with God?
A. God loves us; He watches out for and takes good care of us - but He's also the boss. Part of a genuine and meaningful relationship with God is our ability to accept His authority and conduct our lives according to His will, even when it isn't easy or comfortable. Only one who is able to accept authority on principle will be able to fully tap into his relationship with God.