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The greatest leaders, just like great parents and teachers are all defined by one thing…

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The Chief Rabbi’s D’var Torah for Vayeira


Parents only teach their children one lesson. What is it?

Parshat Vayeira commences,

“Vayeira elav Hashem,” – “Hashem appeared to Avraham,”

immediately after his circumcision and it was in this vision that Avraham saw three strangers coming towards him.

Chazal, our sages, in the Gemara, Masechet Sotah, teach:

“Mikan shemidat Hashem levaker cholim.” – “From here we learn that one of the ways of the Almighty is to visit the sick.”

Hashem is obviously the ultimate leader. He’s the Melech Malchei haMelachim, the Supreme King of Kings and He wants us to know that a crucial ingredient of outstanding leadership is setting an example to others. Policies are important, instructions are crucial, but there’s nothing more important than doing the right thing and leading the way. It’s not only what you say that counts. It’s also what you do.

Similarly in Parshat Vezot Habracha after we read about the sad passing of Moshe Rabbeinu, the Torah tells us,

“Vayikbor otoh bagai.” – “And He buried him in the valley,”

and nobody has ever discovered the burial place of Moshe.

“Vayikbor,” – “He buried him,” – Who served as the chevra kadisha? According to tradition, it was none other than the Almighty himself setting an example to us for all time of how important it is for us to relate with respect to the remains of the deceased. So from Hashem we learn how important it is for leaders to do the right thing.

And we have a fine example of this in Parshat Vayeira. The Parsha immortalises Avraham Avinu and it does so through revealing to us details of the Akeida, when Avraham took his precious son Yitzchak, listened to the word of Hashem and nearly sacrificed him on an altar.

Of course Avraham changed the world, transforming lives from that time onwards through teaching people a new way of morality, ethics and spirituality, and his legacy lasts to this day. But ultimately Avraham is remembered because of what he did – the Akeida. Together with the nine other trials, this proved that he was the real thing. He was a sincere leader. He didn’t only say what was right – he always did what was right, setting that prime example for others.

So from Avraham Avinu, indeed from HaKadosh Baruch Hu, we learn the crucially important lesson of inspiring and leading others. Teachers only teach one class, Rabbis only deliver one sermon and parents only teach one lesson to their children and that is: the lives that they live.

Shabbat shalom.