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by Lawrence Stroll
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer

This week’s issue marks the return of Lawrence Stroll’s popular Between Friends column. In case you forgot, 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,

You might recall that I sought your advice regarding my new leadership role a few weeks ago. Well, I am pleased to report that thanks to your remarks regarding Pharaoh, I have been leading my “troops” by example. At this point, I am afraid that if they continue to follow my lead as well as they have been, they might wind up where Pharaoh’s followers ended up. What I mean is that I suspect that they are becoming too dependent on my leadership. I get the sense that they are not really using their own creativity and intuition and are simply following my directives. I’m a little inclined to let up and just let them manage with less management, so to speak. Don’t you think that would benefit them more?

Sincerely, Considering Abdicating Leadership

 

Dear David,

Kudos on your achievement. If I recall our correspondence correctly, your preconceived notions of leadership seemed to be setting you up for a downfall. However, by starting to lead by example, you seem to have met with much success—at least in the area of getting your “troops” on board. As you progress into the next phase of leadership, that is, maintaining the momentum that you have been fortunate enough to have generated, it is important to learn another lesson about leadership. Lucky for you, you don’t have to look further than the very first verse of this week’s Torah portion.

Following on the heels of last week’s Torah portion, which detailed the commandments regarding the construction of the Tabernacle, we begin this week’s Torah portion with a discussion of the individuals who will be performing the required service within the Tabernacle. Immediately, we are informed about the oil to be used for the lighting of the menorah. We are told that the Jewish people were commanded to bring pure olive oil so as to kindle the lamp constantly.

Rashi comments on the Torah’s choice of words to express this idea. The literal meaning of the Hebrew word used to denote the kindling, lha’alot, is to cause to ascend. Rashi understands that this word was used as a directive that one must kindle the lamp until the flame ascends on its own. The Gur Aryeh and the Malbim, noted as being exceptional Torah scholars, comment that one must not simply let the wick catch fire allowing the flame to spread on its own. Rather, one must hold the flame until the entire wick has caught on fire.

This teaches an important lesson for anyone who has ever been in a position of leadership—whether it involves the mentoring, supervising, guiding, teaching, or parenting of others. While it is true that we must let our disciples “do it themselves,” we must always be available to guide them towards success—in the same way that a professional sports coach is always on the sidelines. A leader’s job is not over until “all the wick has caught fire.” And only when this spiritual, physical, intellectual, or emotional fire (as the case may be) is burning bright, can we then rest claim to having done our job.

I wouldn’t even think about abdicating any responsibility that might contribute to your troops’ success. You may have to seek out a way to teach them independence and creativity, but without your guidance and ongoing leadership there’s an excellent chance that their flame will be extinguished prematurely.

Sincerely, Lighting Your Flame of Leadership

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

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