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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

A Leader Who Goes Down and Brings Up

R. Shmuel bar Nachmani said in the name of R. Yonatan: Whoever says that the sons of Shmuel sinned is making a mistake, as the p’sukim say: “And so it was when Shmuel became old, and he made his sons judges for Israel… and his sons did not follow in his ways” (Shmuel I, 8:1-3). “In his ways” they did not follow, but they did not sin either. So how does one explain the [continuation of the] pasuk: “they went after improper profits (betza)”? This means that they did not act like their father, as the righteous Shmuel would travel to all the places in Israel and judge the people in their cities, as the pasuk says: “He would go year by year and would go to Beit El, Gilgal, and the Mitzpa and judged Israel” (ibid. 7:16). In contrast, his sons did not do so, but they sat in their cities so that they could increase the profits of their assistants and scribes.
Various RabbisTishrei 30 5778
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Gemara: R. Shmuel bar Nachmani said in the name of R. Yonatan: Whoever says that the sons of Shmuel sinned is making a mistake, as the p’sukim say: "And so it was when Shmuel became old, and he made his sons judges for Israel… and his sons did not follow in his ways" (Shmuel I, 8:1-3). "In his ways" they did not follow, but they did not sin either. So how does one explain the [continuation of the] pasuk: "they went after improper profits (betza)"? This means that they did not act like their father, as the righteous Shmuel would travel to all the places in Israel and judge the people in their cities, as the pasuk says: "He would go year by year and would go to Beit El, Gilgal, and the Mitzpa and judged Israel" (ibid. 7:16). In contrast, his sons did not do so, but they sat in their cities so that they could increase the profits of their assistants and scribes.

Ein Ayah: The greatest level of a leader of a nation is that he should consider himself so dedicated to the needs of the people he leads that he fully appreciates their worth, their situations, and their specific needs. Specifically, he should be able to not view these elements of the people’s lives from his own perspective but to lower himself into their situation in a clear manner, as if he is standing in the same predicament and in one place with them.
When this delicate characteristic is found in abundance in a righteous judge, it will cause him to "go down" to the people, travelling from one place of their inhabitation to another place. This will then naturally cause him to lower his spirit to their inner situation, which is quite distant from his own level. In that way, he will raise them up, take them with him, and judge them with justice and with an approach of belief. Such a holy judge will be led by a great internal strength to keep the judicial apparatus functioning on firm footing without the need for intimidating officers to enforce the smooth running of the judicial system.
However, to reach this level is no simple thing. How great and lofty, holy and transcendent, it is?! How much spirit of Hashem must a person have upon him to know how to lead those who are far from his level based on their true situation?! Shmuel was blessed with these abilities, and therefore his "spirit took him" to travel from place to place in the cities of his fellow Jews – going down to them and raising them up to him, as opposed to influencing them from his high station.
Shmuel’s sons did not attain their father’s high level in this regard. They decided to judge the people from their own places according to their understanding. Such justice cannot be definite, and therefore it needs a judicial apparatus to support it. These positions were filled by assistants and scribes who received pay. Shmuel’s sons’ actions could not be considered a sin in the regular sense of the meaning; however, this was not the way of their father, who was chosen by Hashem – the righteous Shmuel.
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