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Leadership lessons from Moshe Rabbeinu

ציור: יואל וקסברגר, מלכות וקסברגר

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Simultaneously, with the fourth round of elections beginning here, and with violent protests in America following elections over there, we are presented with a leadership workshop courtesy of this week's Torah portion:

1. A leader can grow up in the house of Pharaoh as “the prince of Egypt” but still not forget his identity and his nation. Such a leader may even muster the courage to stand up to Pharaoh, ruler of the world’s greatest empire. Such a leader may even muster the courage to stand up to Pharaoh, and tell him the truth to his face.

2. A leader is not necessarily charismatic. He can be a stutterer with a speech impediment and not a silver-tongued orator. Moses himself does not claim to be perfect; he admits to his deficiencies without embarrassment: “I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue,” he says.

3. A leader embraces cooperation with others, with minimal stepping on other people’s toes, without envy, without competing with anyone. Moshe treks into the desert with Aharon his brother and Miriam his sister by his side, and each draws upon his or her unique talents during their long journey.

4. A leader does not proclaim a need to “change the people” or “change the Torah” or “change the destination.” He does not despair despite the difficulty of persuading the people to follow and keep the Torah, and he continues to pull the people along the road to the Land of Israel even when they want to go back to Egypt.

5. A leader does not attribute success to himself. He is a man of faith and knows that he is only an emissary. The most important person in the Exodus story is also the most humble.

We, of course, do not expect our elected leaders to be Moshe Rabbeinu. Still, the Torah portions that will accompany the election campaign in the weeks ahead should remind us of how, ideally, those in leadership roles should conduct themselves.


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