A Sweeter Leader by Ruchi Koval


Hi Chevra,

“And it seems to me you lived your life

Like a candle in the wind

Never fading with the sunset

When the rain set in.

And your footsteps will always fall here

Along England's greenest hills

Your candle’s burned out long before

Your legend ever will.”

Elton John's metaphor of choice for Princess Diana, a candle, is moving. Maybe he read Mishlei (Proverbs, written by King Solomon), where it says, “a candle of G-d is the soul of man.” A leader is a candle and a light, and actually, according to Torah, a true leader's candle never burns out.

Leadership is an important theme (join me at JWRP’s Leadership Conference this month to really dig in to this topic!). Leaders appear in all different forms: moral, political, religious, peer-to-peer. But, one thing all true leaders have in common: their influence outlives them.

Last week's Torah portion is called Shoftim (Judges). The verses go into great detail about whom to appoint and how they should behave. The Torah minces no words on the important subject of leadership. Judges have to meet a rigorous set of qualifications and are held to a high standard. Charisma, talent and smarts are in no way enough. Judges must be compassionate, sensitive, insightful, moral, and immune to power play.

And, this is why one of my favorite prayers in the Jewish liturgy is this: “Return our judges as in the beginning, and our advisors as they used to be, and remove from us pain and agony.”

Anyone want to shed some pain and agony? Yes, ma'am, step right up and unload it right here. That's what Jewish leadership used to look like in Temple times, and what we pray for again. Imagine, if every time you had a thorny decision to make, an ethical dilemma, unusual symptoms, or distressing news, instead of crowdsourcing Facebook for a therapist getting a referral for a responsible professional and starting the difficult journey of trial and error, you could simply turn to your local spiritual leader for true guidance and insight. Wow!

The Jewish world recently mourned the loss of just such a powerful and beautiful human being, a true leader, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. This tiny Hungarian Holocaust survivor lit up a candle that burned brightly for so many Jewish souls searching for meaning and inspiration.

Here's my tribute to her, with thanks to Elton John:

“And it seems to me you lived your life

Like a fire in the wind

Never fading with the sunset

When the rain set in.

And your footsteps will always fall here

Inspiring our deepest will

Your candle’s never burned out

For it's bright within us still.”


 Ruchi Koval is a JWRP Trip Leader and City Leader. She's also a musician, blogger, author, parenting coach, and lecturer. She loves to organize closets, eat doughnuts, and inspire others to live their best lives with Torah values. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, and has seven children, and a 60 lb. golden doodle. 


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