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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

How to score the corner office

Daf Yomi Gittin 16


Gidon was threshing wheat on the floor of the winepress when an angel appeared to him. 
“Hashem is with you, mighty warrior!” said the angel.  Gidon didn’t know what he was talking about.  He was the lowliest in his family.  His tribe of Menashe was the weakest of the tribes.  And the Israelites were far from mighty – for years, they had suffered oppression at the hands of the Midianites.  But the angel was adamant.  Hashem had chosen Gidon to lead the Israelites to victory.

‘Give me a sign,’ said Gidon.  ‘Tonight I shall place a wool fleece on the threshing floor.  If You are indeed with me, may the fleece be soaked with dew in the morning while the entire ground remains dry.’  He awoke the next morning to find that, lo and behold, the miracle he requested had occurred.
‘Don’t be angry with me,’ Gidon continued, ‘but tonight let’s try the following: I’ll place a wool fleece; and tomorrow I would like to see the ground moist, but the fleece completely dry.”  And sure enough, the next morning, it was as he had asked.

What was the meaning of these strange tests?

A stream of liquid, a current running down a steep slope, and liquid that moistens do not cause a connection between two pools of water for the sake of ritual impurity or purity.
Nevertheless, if it is so moist that it conveys sufficient moisture to another body allowing it, in turn, to provide moisture, it would create a valid connection.

The angel told Gidon that he would lead the Children of Israel.   Using a mere piece of fleece and a threshing floor, Gidon imparted timeless lessons of leadership.  Do you want to be a leader?  These are the two things you need to know.

In the first test, Gidon arrived in the morning to find the ball dripping with moisture while everything around was completely dry.  If you want to be a leader, you need to be able to drip with moisture, even when everyone around is completely dry.  You need to be the person that always sees the glass completely full!  You need to be the person who provides positive energy and optimism in every situation!  Even when everything seems dire and hopeless to everyone else, the leader is still brimming with passion, energy, and awesomeness!

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says that a true leader is not someone who builds a strong cadre of followers; rather, one who builds a strong cadre of leaders.  That is the meaning of our Gemara: if you want to create a real connection, it’s not enough to just give off moisture, you need to be so wet and dripping with energy and positivity that it is infectious!  A true leader brings out the best in everyone they encounter, making them into a leader!

But then Gidon proposes a second test of leadership.  This time around, the fleece must be completely dried out but the threshing floor soaking with water.  A true leader is not about themselves.  It’s about taking all you’ve got and giving it to others, till you’re completely dried out, so to speak. 

As children we are takers. A baby cries and mommy comes running.  Little children kvetch and daddy helps.  Teenagers stick out their hands and parents give them what they need and want.  Children are all about themselves.  But then we mature and, as adults, hopefully we transition into a giving role.   We get married and dedicate our lives to someone else.  But that’s still a two-way street.  Until one day, you have kids and it’s all about giving, with no expectation of anything in return!

Marriage and childbearing are symbolic of a mature adult’s role in this world.  You are here to serve others.  The more people you serve, the greater the leader you become.   Western culture would have us believe that leadership means occupying the corner office.  That’s not the Jewish definition.  Gidon was the lowliest in his family from the weakest tribe.  But he was dedicated to serving others and giving it his all, making him the ultimate leader.


Dedicate yourself to serving your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends!  Dedicate your life to serving the community, society, humanity!  And the more you can inspire others to dedicate themselves in like manner, the greater the leader you become.  May you merit a life of service and inspiration!