A Lesson For the Children – Every day the group of frogs gathered at the edge of the swamp. They would tell each other about the events of the previous day. They would talk not only about good experiences but also about bad ones. “Today I was almost gobbled up by a terrifying pelican, and only by a miracle was I able to get away with a great leap,” one said excitedly. “My poor sister did not manage to escape,” another small frog wept. And the excited reaction could be heard throughout the area. “What can we do? … The time has come for action! … We want to put an end to our troubles, an end to the pursuit!”
An old and wise frog tried to calm the group, and he said: “We must choose a leader for ourselves. We need somebody who is better than the rest of us, one who will know how to lead us all to victory, to a feeling of security, to economic prosperity. We need somebody who can lead the frogs to the epitome of success.”
And they all nodded their green heads in agreement. The old frog was right, but who was suitable for this role? Who was able to view all the events from a relatively high point of view, who could lift his head above the swamp and look far away?
The frogs decided to search for the desired leader and then return the next day for further discussion. And all the frogs immediately began to search for an appropriate leader. But every name brought up was immediately rejected, including the wise old frog who had suggested looking for a leader. After all, he was a frog like all the rest, he had also lived his entire life in the swamp, and he did not really have any unusual way to fight the pelicans.
A young frog came by, and he looked curiously all around him. And suddenly, he saw what everybody was looking for! Here was the true leader of them all! There he stood, in the middle of the swamp: tall, broad, and eyes open in all directions. Some pelicans who saw him moved carefully around him with a show of respect, not touching him at all. And he was not frightened by them, he stood still, not moving. This was indeed impressive! Here was a leader with courage and stability!
The truth is that what the frog saw was an ancient tree whose branches had long since been torn away by strong winds. All that remained was the trunk, which stuck up above the surface of the swamp. The tree trunk so impressed the frogs that they became convinced and unanimously appointed it as their leader. This was the best choice. Somebody strong, stable, taller than them all, and the main thing – courageous and smart! The community approached and put a crown on the top of the new leader. And what about the leader himself? He lowered his head slightly in the wind, and modestly allowed them to put the crown on him.
But many days passed, and the new leader turned out to be silent and very lazy. He did not give them any advice about how to fight the dangerous animals. Nobody heard any advice from him about where to search for food. After a while, the frogs realized that nothing good would come of this leader, and they soon became angry.
A raging demonstration gathered around the tree trunk, the leader of the frogs. Signs called out, “No more laziness!” The young frogs cried out, “The king does nothing!” and the older ones added, “Let us choose a new king!” The young frog that had made the original proposal was very disappointed. He could not resist, he took a lump of mud and threw it in the face of the leader. To his surprise, even this daring act did not move the leader out of his lethargy. Within minutes, hundreds of other frogs joined in. They threw mud and stones at the leader, removed his crown, and even began to spit at him.
But in the end, they learned an important lesson. It is not enough to choose a leader who appears tall, wise, and courageous. What is needed is a leader who will work for the benefit of his subjects…
(Source: Parables of La Fontaine). Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il).
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.