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The Agony of Leadership

The Agony of Leadership


Moses, my master, annihilate them (11:28)

"Annihilate them" - Appoint them to a position of leadership, and they will deteriorate of their own accord…

- Rashi's commentary

After the passing of Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, the elder chassidim gathered and decided to confer the mantle of leadership on his middle son Rabbi Sholom DovBer. A delegation visited Rabbi Sholom DovBer and requested that he assume his father's place as Rebbe. Rabbi Sholom DovBer heard them out in silence, playing with the chain of his pocket watch, and did not respond in any way.

Soon after they left, Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Chein, an intimate friend of Rabbi Sholom DovBer, entered the room. As soon as the door closed behind him, the new Rebbe burst into tears. "If you are truly a friend of mine," he wept, "you would tie a rope around my neck, secure it to a heavy stone, and throw me in the river…"

Yanki Tauber served as editor of
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Eliezer Posner, June 17, 2008

RE: Poor Rabbi A leader needs to be enthusiastic about his job. But he also needs to recognize the importance of his position. Too often leaders do not take their leadership with appropriate seriousness. This story teaches us one of the mindsets necessary to be a good leader.

Before generalizing from this story to Rabbi Sholom DovBer's life, remember the story's context: Rabbi Sholom DovBer, who at that time was only 22 years old, was mourning his father's passing. It is not surprising that he found the prospect of succeeding his father daunting. Although at the point becoming Rebbe seemed to be a fate worse than death, Rabbi Sholom DovBer went on to become a great leader, having even more adherents than his father.

He also valued happiness greatly and is the author of the well-known Chassidic maxim, "Simcha poretz geder" ("Joy breaks all boundaries").

Click here to learn more about Rabbi Sholom DovBer's leadership. Reply

Linda Schulman Auburn, CA June 12, 2008

Poor Rabbi The purpose of this story to me is that leaders rise up. Assigning leadership to someone who would rather be dead doesn't seem to be the best idea. Does anyone know how Rabbi Sholom DovBer did as the Rebbe? Reply