“Gather to you men who are wise, understanding, and known among the tribes, and I will appoint them to be your leaders” (Deuteronomy 1,13).
In choosing wise men to lead the nation of Israel, Moses searched for “experienced” men. This meant that they must be in close touch with the people and understand them in terms of such matters as honor, love, and their true needs. Today, as was true of Moses in the desert, we must make sure that the people we choose to lead us have traits that will enable them to fulfill their mission while assuming complete responsibility for the true interests of the community.
One time an argument broke out between Rabbi Ze’ev’s wife and a woman who worked in her house. The rabbi’s wife accused her maid of breaking a valuable item and demanded that she pay for it. The maid denied that she had done anything wrong and refused to pay. In the end, the rabbi’s wife decided to bring the maid to the local rabbinical court, at the home of the rabbi of the town. When Rabbi Ze’ev saw that his wife was about to go to court, he put on his best clothing and prepared to leave his home too. His wife asked him where he was going, and he replied that he too was going to the home of the great rabbi. His wife objected, saying that the whole matter was not so important and that she could successfully present their arguments in the rabbinical court.
Rabbi Ze’ev replied, “I am sure you can represent our interests. But what about this poor innocent maid? Who will defend her? I am going there to act as a lawyer for our maid.”
It is said that Emperor Franz Josef of Austria once passed by a synagogue on the night of the Ninth of Av, and he saw dozens of people sitting on the ground, mourning and weeping for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, while they read the book of Lamentations.
After looking at this spectacle for some time, the Emperor said to a friend: “A nation like this, which can continue to weep about the loss of their independence and their land, is not really lost. One day they will regain possession of that land.”
(For the Torah portion of Devarim, 5772)