Mashiach and Jewish Leadership

Mashiach and Jewish Leadership: Part 14 – Integrating Prayer and Action

In Kabbalah, the terms "feminine" and "masculine" (bride and groom) are always relative, representing primordial forces present in both male and female. "Feminine" psychology tends to pray first then act, whereas masculine psychology is more directed to acting first and then praying. In truth, both attitudes have their merits and their proper place. Before Esther entered the inner chamber of king Achashverosh without permission, an act punishable by death if the king was offended, she asked all the Jews in Shushan to fast and pray with her for three days. Her efforts were ultimately successful, as recorded in the book of Esther and celebrated on the holiday of Purim. When Moses, on the other hand, attempted the same strategy of praying at length when the Egyptians were approaching the Jews trapped before the Red Sea, G-d declares: "Why do you cry to Me, speak to the children of Israel that they go forward." Although both strategies have their time and place, we are taught that since prayer is more potent when preceded and supported by acts of lovingkindness, this is the general path to pursue.

A further example of this is when Jacob returns to Israel after fleeing from his brother Esau twenty years earlier and is faced with the threat of Esau coming against him with four hundred men. In reaction, Jacob sends gifts in order to facilitate peace, divides his camp in preparation for war and then prays. Our Sages instruct us that Jacob's three-stage strategy is the model formula for Jewish leaders in all generations.

Through a lifetime of caring for others, the leader fine-tunes his ability to know the proper time and place for both action and prayer. This leads to an even deeper realization of the secret of a leader's success; to know how to have compassion on all of creation and how to arouse G-d's compassion from above. The experience of compassion in the heart is ultimately a gift of G-d, creating an ongoing dynamic whereby the more he is compassionate, the more he draws down G-d's compassion. The by-product of this dynamic is Divine inspiration, one of the defining factors of a true Jewish leader.

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