The Dual Nature of Leadership

By: Rabbi Tuly Weisz and Rabbi Dr. Ethan Eisen
July 5, 2024

Many stories from the prophets could teach us about rebellion against leadership.  Alongside the weekly portion, read over Shabbat, a portion from the Prophets is read as well. This is called the Haftorah. But despite the fact that prophets are rich with rebellions, there is one specific story that relates to the story of Korah (Numbers 16:1–18:32), which is the portion we read this week.

After seeing that Samuels children were unfit to assume a leadership position toward the end of his life, the Israelites requested a king “like all the other nations.”  Samuel and God received this request as a rejection of leadership, and many commentators offer suggestions explaining what was wrong with the Jewish people’s request.  One hint can be found in Samuel’s admonition of the Jewish people when he recounts the previous leadership of Moses and Aharon, as well as several of the leaders found in the book of Judges.  A recurring theme in the book of Judges is that the Jewish people “forgot Hashem, their God, so He delivered them into the hands” of their enemies”.

  Their many instances of salvation came when “they cried out to God, and said, ‘We have sinned!  For we have forsaken God, and we have worshiped [idols]” (v. 10).  In response to the Jewish people’s spiritual elevation, “So God sent Jerubaal (aka Gidon) and Bedan (aka Samson) and Jeftah and Samuel, and He rescued you from the hand of your enemies from all around, and you dwelt in security.” 

            Notably, Samuel counts himself in this list of leaders, even though the others led the Jewish people in battle, whereas the verses do not indicate that Samuel was a military leader.  Instead, his leadership at the time of war was bringing the Israelites back to service of God, and offering sacrifices in prayer for success in war.

  In other words, the function of the leaders was to be spiritual guides for the Jewish people, and military victory would naturally follow. 

            In requesting a king, the people wished to separate political and military leadership from spiritual leadership, which was a grave error in Samuel’s eyes; they disregarded the critical need of a leader who would guide them toward the service of God.  It was exactly this challenge to leadership that was invoked by Korah in the portion from the Bible. He did not argue that Moses was unfit to lead them in war, or that there was not a need for political leaders in general.  Instead, his argument was that “the entire assembly – all of them – is holy and God is among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of God?”

Korah’s argument challenged the spiritual leadership of Moses and Aharon, claiming that all of Israel was equally holy and therefore equally capable of spiritual leadership. This mirrors Samuel’s request for a king, which sought to separate political and spiritual leadership.

The parallel between these two incidents highlights the necessary duality of leadership: In the ideal Jewish model, leadership is not merely about political or military prowess, but also about spiritual guidance and connection to God. This is why Samuel saw the request for a king as a rejection of divine leadership.

The haftara’s inclusion of this narrative emphasizes the error in Korach’s thinking. Just as the people in Samuel’s time failed to understand the importance of spiritually guided leadership, so too did Korah and his followers as they misunderstand the nature of Moses and Aharon’s roles.

The Bible’s timeless messages are relevant in our times, especially today. With great power comes great responsibility – and the danger of separating political power from spiritual responsibility is one that many Modern leaders (in many different spheres) face. It reminds us that true leadership is not about personal glory or power but about serving as a bridge between the people and God, guiding them toward a higher spiritual existence.

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Rabbi Tuly Weisz

Rabbi Tuly Weisz is the founder of Israel365 and the editor of “The Israel Bible,” the first Bible dedicated to highlighting the relationship between the Land and the People of Israel. Rabbi Tuly is a columnist for Israel365news, the Jerusalem Post, Fox News and Newsmax who writes passionately about Israel, the Bible and Jewish-Christian relations. In addition to his writings, Rabbi Tuly has appeared alongside Alan Dershowitz on ILTV, on CBN’s “700 Club”, Daystar, Israel National News, TBN and numerous other television appearances. Rabbi Weisz attended Yeshiva University (BA), Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (Rabbinic Ordination) and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law (JD) and served as the Rabbi of the Beth Jacob Congregation in Columbus, Ohio before making Aliyah to Israel. Rabbi Tuly lives with his wife and is blessed with 6 children and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.

Rabbi Tuly Weisz and Rabbi Dr. Ethan Eisen

This is a special series on the weekly Haftara, the portion from Prophets that corresponds with the weekly reading from the Bible. It was co-written by Rabbi Dr. Ethan Eisen and Rabbi Tuly Weisz.

Rabbi Dr. Ethan Eisen is a Yeshiva University-ordained rabbi with a PhD in clinical psychology from The George Washington University. Ethan trained at leading clinical and research centers in the United States, including NIH and VA medical centers. His writings on a wide variety of topics in psychology and Jewish interest have been published in top academic and Jewish journals, as well as popular Jewish publications. His book, Talmud on the Mind, explores the relationship between Talmudic principles and psychological science. He currently practices as a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in combat trauma. Rabbi Ethan lives with his wife and is blessed with 4 children. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.

Rabbi Tuly Weisz is the founder of Israel365 and the editor of “The Israel Bible,” the first Bible dedicated to highlighting the relationship between the Land and the People of Israel.
Rabbi Tuly is a columnist for Israel365news, the Jerusalem PostFox News and Newsmax who writes passionately about Israel, the Bible and Jewish-Christian relations. In addition to his writings, Rabbi Tuly has appeared alongside Alan Dershowitz on ILTV, on CBN’s “700 Club”, Daystar, Israel National News, TBN and numerous other television appearances.
Rabbi Weisz attended Yeshiva University (BA), Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (Rabbinic Ordination) and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law (JD) and served as the Rabbi of the Beth Jacob Congregation in Columbus, Ohio before making Aliyah to Israel.
Rabbi Tuly lives with his wife and is blessed with 6 children and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.

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