Leadership Beyond Ego

February 21, 2024


After winning the election for 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln invited three of his rivals to join his cabinet. As noted by one of his erstwhile rivals, William Henry Seward, this act of magnanimity highlighted a level of selflessness and greatness of spirit that was almost beyond human. Seward later declared, “The President is the best of us,” a testament to Lincoln’s unparalleled ability to put aside personal ego for the sake of national unity and interest.

According to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, this historical vignette finds a profound echo in the Torah portion of Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10). In this Torah portion, the narrative shifts its focus from Moses, the quintessential leader of the Israelites, to his brother Aaron, the first High Priest, commanding Moses to appoint Aaron and his sons as priests and discussing the special clothing they are to wear. In fact, Moses’ name does not appear even once in the entire Torah portion.

What is the message of this division of power and why was Moses’ name omitted from this Torah portion?

Rabbi Sacks explains that God does not want any single individual to have too much control. Therefore, the priesthood was given to Aaron and not to Moses, who was already the political leader and main prophet of the nation. In that way, the Torah ensures a system of checks and balances.

But the lesson in this Torah portion runs much deeper.

When Moses was chosen to be the leader of the Jewish people at the burning bush, God told him that Aaron was on his way to meet him “and he will be happy to see you” (Exodus 4:14). Despite the fact that Aaron was three years Moses’ senior, he was overjoyed by Moses’ appointment and did not harbor any feelings of envy. This broke the biblical pattern of sibling rivalry seen up until this point. Similarly, God’s command for Moses to bestow the priesthood upon Aaron, a role he himself would never fulfill, becomes a test of his character:

Could Moses exhibit the same generosity of spirit that Aaron had shown him?

The Torah answers resoundingly in the affirmative, showcasing Moses’ humility and his ability to make space for another form of leadership alongside his own. The absence of Moses’ name in Tetzaveh is not an omission but a powerful statement: the greatest leaders are those who do not need constant recognition to validate their worth. They understand that leadership is about uplifting others, creating a legacy of shared success, and fostering an environment where everyone can thrive.

The Torah portion of Tetzaveh offers a timeless lesson on leadership. It teaches us that the strength of a leader lies in their humility and their ability to empower others. Like the example set by Abraham Lincoln, Tetzaveh teaches us that true leadership is not about accumulating power but about distributing it wisely. It requires humility, the capacity to make space for others, and the ability to celebrate the successes of others as one’s own.

The ultimate message is clear: the smaller the ego, the greater the leader. In a world hungry for authentic leadership, the stories of Moses, Aaron and Abraham Lincoln remind us that the path to true greatness is paved with humility, generosity, and the courage to share the spotlight with others.

Israeli soldiers are risking their lives to protect us all from Islamic terrorism. But they need our help. Sign up for Israel365 Action to receive updates on how YOU can help fight Hamas and its supporters in the United States and around the world. 

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Subscribe

Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email

Recent Posts
Is the Sweetness Worth the Sting?
The Mountain of the Height of Israel
A Nation Born in One Day

Related Articles

Subscribe

Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email