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by Lawrence Stroll    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

This column tracks the e-mail correspondence between two friends. David is twenty-something,single, and non-observant. Ari is thirty-something, married with kids, and a ba’al teshuvah (returnee to traditional Torah observance). The younger friend is at a time in his life when he is looking for “more” (i.e. seeking spiritual growth and personal development) and generally writes to his older friend in search of advice. The older friend tries to provide useful and solid advice by drawing on the Torah portion of that week.

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Dear Ari,

I just got wind of some great news at work. My immediate supervisor informed me that I am going to be in charge of one of his special projects. He was going to oversee it himself, but felt that I had the leadership skills to carry it out. DID YOU HEAR THAT? Leadership skills, baby! Do you know what that means? It means I get to assemble a team below me, delegate what I want them to do, give them an occasional motivational speech, oversee production reports and essentially get credit for being in charge without having to do a whole heck of a lot of work. This could be the start of a wonderful new career. I don’t mean to brag, but thought it would be unfair to not give you the opportunity to congratulate me on the recent development.

Sincerely, The New King

 

Dear David,

It’s always a pleasure to hear great news about my friends. And I certainly must thank you, your highness, for allowing me to kiss your signet ring and wax eloquently about how wonderful it must be to have attained such a lofty position at such a tender young age. Unfortunately, Davey-boy, I wouldn’t get too comfortable with your new-found sovereignty. If you want to ensure that your term in office is met with accolades and your prospects for reelection seem optimistic, you might want to follow some of the leadership skills of some of history’s more successful rulers. And what a coincidence that you need look no further than this week’s Torah portion for an example of one such individual—Pharaoh, king of Egypt.

Few would argue that Pharaoh was one of the most powerful non-Jewish figures discussed in the second of the Five Books of Moses. While I’m not suggesting that we emulate non-Jewish role models, it would be unjust to deny the messages that Hashem has purposefully encrypted in the Torah for our personal and spiritual benefit. In this regard, it is noteworthy to observe Pharaoh’s behavior shortly after the Jews begin their exodus from Egypt.

After yet another change of heart, Pharaoh decides to go after the Jews and is determined to bring them back to slavery. The verse tells us that Pharaoh harnessed his chariot and took his people with him. As it is well known that the Torah does not use a single extraneous word, let alone letter, Rashi explains why the harnessing of his chariot was so significant. Pharaoh, we learn, harnessed his chariot himself in order to encourage his army. As for the encouragement, Rashi further explains, Pharaoh said he would share the spoils of war with his army—much unlike the arrogance of other kings. It is this remarkable act of leadership that allowed Pharaoh to persuade his army to ultimately follow him to their death in the Red Sea, with the same macabre of a pied piper.

Let me be very clear that the Torah does not suggest that we praise Pharaoh, nor that we attempt to rule over others as he had ruled over our biblical ancestors. In fact, most of us would do well to behave very much unlike Pharaoh in many ways. Nevertheless, the lesson in leadership that we can learn from this evil individual has the potential to serve us in a very positive way.

Your new role is a perfect case in point. At present, I would humbly suggest that your attitude is one that would hardly be well received by your subordinates. Therefore, as an aspiring emperor, you might want to consider some new mental clothes to go along with your recent promotion.

Sincerely, Not Intending To "Reign" On Your Parade

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Lawrence Stroll is a financial planner and Family Wealth Counselor with Geller Financial Advisors in Atlanta.

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