The ongoing IDF operation in Gaza is, as were all the IDF's wars, typified by the term "follow me" – the glorious military ethic of IDF officers and commanders who personally lead their soldiers into battle in built up areas and exposed fields. They are the first to run forward and thus, the first to be wounded and even killed.
This IDF tradition of leadership that sets a personal example is woven into the cloth of Jewish history...
This IDF model - leadership that sets a personal example - is woven into the cloth of Jewish history, stemming from the days of kings, Torah sages, officers and leaders, figures still revered by the Jewish people. Each generation sees these leaders as models of the ethos by which children are to be raised, as guides of coming generations who will create "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation".
Moses is the leader who obeyed G-d's command to teach Joshua the "follow me" tradition, saying "Command Joshua, and strengthen him and give him courage, because he will go before the people and he will apportion the land that you see to them". Rashi, the great medieval commentator, explains: "If he goes before them, they will inherit [the land], but if he does not – they will not."
And ever since, from the days of Joshua Bin Nun who called out "follow me" as he entered the Land of Israel, the Jewish people have been blessed with men of valor and leaders whose "follow me" paved the way for the return to the Land and the establishment of the State of Israel, the laying of the foundation for the future kingdom of Israel.
Judah – "And [Jacob] sent Judah before him to Goshen"; David the future king who volunteered to fight Goliath the Philistine – "And David rushed to the battlefield towards the Philistine"; Judah the Maccabee who continued his father's call –"Whoever is for G-d, come to me"; the Baal Shem Tov and the Gaon of Vilna, leaders of the tortuous aliya of tens of thousands during the 19th centuries; the brave pioneers of the first waves of immigration, dreamers who made their dreams into reality, draining the swamps and making the desert bloom; the leader and great seer of that generation of rebirth, the Torah Sage, Rabbi Avraham Yitschak Hakohen Kook; the Sage Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Kahaneman who raised the "tent of Torah" in the Land of Israel; the establishers of kibbutzim and moshavim whose self sacrifice set the borders of the state; the underground fighters; and in our time, those who resettled Judea and Samaria under the leadership of the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook.
The internal value system of the Jewish people measures the stature of Israel's first prime ministers: Ben Gurion, Sharett, Eshkol, Golda Meir, Begin and Shamir, in comparison to those who came after them – Peres, Sharon, Olmert, Barak – and it looks at Netanyahu to see in which grouping his name will be placed.
The driving force of the early leaders and their willingness to sacrifice themselves, were totally directed to the Land of Israel and the Jewish People. In contrast, it sometimes looked as if the personal ambitions and desires of the second group were stronger than their patriotism and care for the general good, although there is no question that they, too, loved the Land of Israel.
Sadly, sometimes it seems as though the newest breed of politicians who want to fill that post are more similar to the second group than the first.
Let us pray that with G-d's help, we merit a leader whose call to "follow me" imbues us with a feeling of security and strength – and the belief that we are on the right path.
Translated by Rochel Sylvetsky from the Hebrew "Besheva" newspaper.