Chapter 20, Mishnas 1, 2
The flipside of Jewish exceptionalism is the responsibility we owe God and the world to behave like mensches. When we fail in our mission as Jews, we not only harm ourselves, we harm everyone, per Rabbi Yosei ben Elisha. And if we’re all charged with that responsibility, how much more so our leaders. I would suggest that all people and all groups would benefit from cultivating this attitude of responsibility, but I can only speak for my people and the need to clean our house. Part of good leadership means holding our employees and representatives of authority to a high standard, thus law enforcement is a sacred responsibility. I go on the record as a supporter of the police, who are generally heroes, but I stress how much harm a bad cop can do and thus how important it is to keep a watchful eye on the enforcers of law. Far and away the most important lesson today is to manage ourselves and always seek to refine our little corner of creation. Modeling good behavior will do far more good than any lecture. Redemption will come through righteousness at the international, national, community, interpersonal and intrapersonal levels – all happening simultaneously. We must be mensches in all these spheres, and be ever vigilant for the bad-cop moments in our own behavior. Rav Menashya ruled stringently in a community without Torah learning because no one there was equipped to render nuanced decisions. This is why we should always ask a rabbi when we have difficult questions – it takes more learning and wisdom to be lenient than to be stringent. Finally, a word about straining clear wine and riding elevators on Shabbos.