By: Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui
Some time ago I was discussing a legal and moral issue with a school professor which pertained to his very own son. I posited against what his son was doing while he was trying to defend his son. Our debate got rather heated and I presented a legal and moral retort to every defense he presented. After some time going back and forth he says, “Well what do you want from him, everyone does that.” I was totally flabbergasted by his statement and told him. “If this is your final answer I have nothing further to discuss with you.”
Here is a preacher of sorts to budding and developing human beings in his very own educational facility and a lecturer all over the world motivating and encouraging people to follow the straight and the narrow and when it comes down to it, his answer is no different than what any teenager would answer their parent when caught red handed.
People these days are disillusioned and disenchanted in our leaders because they have become followers. Many “leaders” don’t deserve the title by any standards. These “leaders” request a poll for every new decision they make to be sure they won’t upset or offend the sensitivities of any of their followers. This attitude begets the expression, “every generation becomes worse than the one before it.”
According to the second law of thermodynamics, in any insulated system, the degree of disorder tends to increase with the passage of time. Everything has a natural tendency to move from a higher state of order to a lower state of order, and so it is with people. Unless, there are real leaders who reverse this natural trend. Leaders who look forward and upwards and drive forward. Leaders with the moral fortitude to lift standards.
Leaders have become followers and worse. Throughout history the overwhelming majority of leaders have never been people to look up to. Leaders killed, pillaged and took advantage of their position. Certainly the people meant to follow as a whole weren’t much better, otherwise they would have produced leaders worthy of that title or at the very least people who publicly protested the inadequacies of the people in leadership.
This brings us to another by product of the above.
Human nature is such that we are all influenced by our surroundings. When a person sees all around them behavior that is problematic and in our hearts we are sure it is wrong, especially, when coming from people who should be an example, this may sway the person to follow his own weaknesses. This can sometimes justify not doing the proper thing because “everyone is doing it.”
The answer to this is, life is not a popularity contest. The right thing must get done for the right reasons.
Life is meant to test and as a result strengthen our morals every moment of our existence. The evil inclination never gives up and has millions of tricks to get us in his sphere and dominion, as the Bible tells us, “sin crouches at the door” always waiting for an opportunity to put in his foot.
Doing the right thing has always meant being in the minority. By its very definition a leader is one, to the very many.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was once sitting with his teacher Rabbi Akivah when his teacher told him, “It’s enough that I and your Creator know your greatness.” Someone once told the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi M.M. Schneerson how great his wife was. The Rebbe answered, “only G-d recognizes how great she was.”
Instead of being influenced by the bad neighbor, it is up to each person to be the good influence on the bad neighbor. We are good notwithstanding anybody around us because, “there is an eye that sees, and an ear that hears,” everything. “The ledger is open (and) the hand writes.” And finally, “your employer (G-d) is trustworthy to pay you the reward of your labor.”
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