As we recount the Exodus story on Passover, we should pause to consider Moses's leadership abilities — especially as today's Jewish community faces its own personal Mitzrayim.
Where is Moses when you need him? The guy who led us out of Egypt surely would have some good advice to help ease the angst of a community currently roiling from a number of especially heated controversies.
The central character of the Exodus narrative is, intriguingly, missing from the Haggadah. But as we recount the dramatic deliverance of our people from Egyptian slavery at our seders next week, we would do well to remember what it takes to be a good leader.
Humility, empathy, determination and the empowerment of others are all traits that define Moses as he moves from privileged son of the palace to shepherd to liberator.
His attributes are so admired that he has been held up by management gurus as the quintessential leader in books such as David Baron’s Moses on Management: 50 Leadership Lessons From the Greatest Manager of All Time and Norman Cohen’s Moses and the Journey to Leadership: Timeless Lessons of Effective Management From the Bible and Today’s Leaders.
Our community is frequently faced with tough issues that sometimes require bold decisions. For example: Which programs to fund with a finite amount of resources — education or seniors? What kind of programs to sponsor — J Street, anti-J Street or none of the above? Which kinds of speakers to allow into our synagogues — a Jewish victim of terrorism who supports BDS? How to address employer-employee relations — union or no union at Perelman Jewish Day School?
In nearly every instance, how a decision is made can make a huge difference in the way it is received, even by those who disagree with it.
In navigating the difficult path from slavery to freedom, from redemption to revelation, Moses had what it took to effectively communicate a vision, act with transparency, rely on counsel and inspire and encourage his followers, even if it meant moving through the Golden Calf to do so.
Sometimes the path leads to the Promised Land, and sometimes, it’s just about finding the best way forward.
As we enter our Passover holiday, we struggle with our personal Mitzrayim — that narrow space that constricts our freedom — just as our ancestors did as they sought to leave Egypt behind. May we also look collectively to, and for, leaders who know how to walk that less confining, more open path.
Our issues may seem rather petty when compared with what our ancestors experienced fleeing from slavery and wandering for 40 years through the desert. But after all these millenia, leadership still matters. Happy Passover!