("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
Known as a master commander, Napoleon Bonaparte’s
leadership skills continue to be analyzed in depth at the
highest levels even today. What made Napoleon’s soldiers so
loyal and driven to fight for the French empire led by this
Before battle it was important for Napoleon to have morale of
his troops set on a very high level. According to Napoleon: "It
is not set speeches at the moment of battle that render
soldiers brave. The veteran scarcely listens to them, and the
recruit forgets them at the first discharge. If discourses and
harangues are useful, it is during the campaign; to do away
with unfavorable impressions, to correct false reports, to
keep alive a proper spirit in the camp, and to furnish materials
and amusement for the bivouac." – Clearly it wasn’t the
speeches that endeared him to the people. It was his actions
and his communicated system of promotion.
You see, promotion in the French army was open to everyone,
and was not restricted to the gentry and aristocrats. Even a
private could become a general. Napoleon once remarked
"Every one of you carries a marshal's baton in his knapsack;
it is up to you to bring it out".
The late great Gaon Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztl, noted that it was this understanding of the greatness of man – as described by Napoleon -- that allowed him and inspired him to become a Talmid Chacham. A son of a poor immigrant grocer, Rav Ovadiah’s mastery of Torah study spread into all facets of Jewish life and his ability to strive to transcend all cultural and socioeconomic roadblocks that otherwise would have held him back. His belief that Torah study was his baton and that everyone could study at the highest levels and lead Torah lives, led him to become an inspiration to the masses. He would often remark to young people to take a lesson from Napoleon as he did and strive in their lives too.
Avraham Aveinu is another example of a classic leader who led not by long speeches but rather through his actions and character. The Midrash tells us that it was the opening of his tent to guests that often inspired the people to take a closer look at the man who was so kind to them and to try to emulate his belief system. It was through his open tent policy that Avraham was actually able to “manufacture souls.” He was in the right moment and grabbed the marshal’s baton of Chessed and became Judaism’s father and founding leader.
Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl once noted that we all have moments in life like Avraham Aveinu’s Lech Lecha moment. It is in these moments, often ones we do not anticipate, that our opportunity to lead the people comes to the fore. Do we rise to the occasion? Do we seize the marshal’s baton in our respective backpacks?
What is YOUR Marshal’s Baton?
When and how can you raise and release it for the betterment
of the Jewish people?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.