"Judah... said, 'She [Tamar] is right, it is from me'" Genesis 38:26


In his monumental work on business management Good to Great, author James Collins illustrates the qualities of leadership that help average companies become superlative ones. "Level 5 leadership", as he classifies it, combines the paradoxical qualities of genuine personal humility and intense personal will. Using the metaphor of the mirror and the window, he illustrates that successful leaders will look in the mirror during times of failure in the company to apportion personal responsibility and will gaze through the window in times of success to give credit to others.

Over 3,500 years ago, long before James Collins, God had already prioritised the qualities of humility and determination when seeking a woman who would, with Judah, begin the bloodline of Jewish royalty. The Talmud teaches that Tamar's humility, even under life-threatening conditions, coupled with her fierce determination to discreetly do what was correct, rendered her the fitting mother from whom the Davidic royal line would run (Sota 10b). Our sages teach us that this is the deeper meaning of the words "it is from me". These were words not consciously offered by Judah, but rather spoken in prophesy. God himself, as it were, called out in a heavenly voice that Tamar, above all others, would be the one from whom Jewish leadership would come forth.

In truth all of us hold positions of leadership, whether as a family member, friend or employer. Let us therefore strive to be the figurative "children of Tamar" and use her lessons of humility and commitment in our own lives too.

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