I heard this idea from our son, Akiva, at his inauguration on Sunday as rabbi of Hadley Wood Synagogue. It was an incredible pleasure to see how the blond haired, feisty toddler has grown up into a confident and wise young man.
When Aaron is being inaugurated as High Priest, he feels inadequate. Moses says, to reassure him, ‘do not feel inadequate, because you were chosen for this’. Akiva rightly asked, how does this respond to what is on Aaron’s mind? Why should he not feel inadequate just because he was chosen for the job? My son’s answer was to read the words slightly differently. ‘Don’t worry about feelings of inadequacy – it is precisely because you feel this way that you were chosen by God for this role.’
In other words… one of the great qualities of a leader is a sense of his or her own inadequacy. A feeling of humility and a recognition of his own humanness. I believe this is not weakness, it is strength.
In my mind, a leader who displays a level of insecurity and uncertainty is a more genuine leader than one who puts on a pretence of complete confidence. Yes, there is a balance, obviously, and too much uncertainty and insecurity would undermine his ability to lead. But leadership is about being a real person, not putting on a show. Real leadership is ‘warts and all’.
I say this because I firmly believe that, for any one of us, our greatest asset is our own humanity. Because in our humanity is our compassion; in our humanity is our Godliness; in our humanity is our common sense and wisdom; in our humanity is our love and generosity of spirit. When we try to create a persona for ourselves, we lose all these qualities, giving them up for the superficial rewards of recognition, respect, and a false feeling of security. And it simply isn’t worth it.
Yes, in our humanity is also our insecurity; in our humanity are also our doubts and uncertainties; in our humanity is also our lack of confidence. But, not only are these a small price to pay, I actually see them – when in proper measure – as qualities themselves. Because humility is the greatest quality of a leader. Humility is a putting aside of the ego and looking towards a deeper wisdom, a divine wisdom. And a leader who looks to be guided by divine wisdom, not personal agenda, will lead in a way that other leaders do not. A leader guided by a higher sense of calling is a leader that people will follow; and a leader that will not lead his flock astray.
Ultimately, this is the leadership that I believe in and that I am looking to develop through my Rabbinical Training Academy. If you are in the area and available, please do join us for the graduation in ten days’ time.
Parsha in a Nutshell
At the end of the 7 days of the Priests’ inauguration, Aaron brings offerings for himself and the entire nation. Nadav and Avihu, his sons, bring an incense offering on their own initiative and are consumed by a heavenly fire (perhaps the only time when someone did something wrong and was immediately struck by lightning!). God then specifies the kosher mammals (those that have cloven hooves and chew their cud), fish (those with fins and scales), birds (24 non kosher species, all the rest are kosher), and insects (only certain types of locusts!).