By Meg Adler.
I can’t reflect upon Jewish leadership without thinking about Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. You know Moses, the guy who spoke to the Eternal through a burning bush and then and with reticence (and with the help of his siblings) freed the Hebrews from Egypt. To me, Moses, Aaron and Miriam are excellent models of various styles of leadership. But together, they are the model of Jewish leadership. They are a team.
First of all, Moses owes his life to Miriam -– she is said to be the one have encouraged his conception and she helped save him when he was floating on the Nile. Second, at the burning bush, G-d’s final push to get Moses to lead the Hebrews was telling Moses that his brother, Aaron, would help him. Aaron would literally speak for him – be the front man (and later the first priest). Finally, it is clear that while Moses was skeptical and nervous, and Aaron was to become holy (and sometimes, foolish – remember the Golden Calf?), it was Miriam who was to lead the people in celebration – song and dance. Miriam was to be the source of hope as embodied in the tambourine – while the boys were talking to Pharaoh, Miriam was packing up the music.
To me, Jewish leadership is just this – it is built through teamwork. Though Moses is said to be the greatest prophet, he would be no prophet but for his family. But more than that – Moses, Miriam and Aaron each brought their own skills and dispositions. They each had a role to play – a pitcher needs a catcher, afterall.
Almost everything in Jewish life is born from discussion, interpretation, or complexity. Even the angle at which we hang a mezuzah in a doorway was decided in compromise. In multiple voices coming together. It seems the smallest unit of Jewish life is a collective – so too with leadership.
We end with a blessing:
May we recognize those who have led before us and be thoughtful to leave a foundation for those who will come after. May we not discount ourselves. And yet, may we not count ourselves too much. May we seek out a team and accept we cannot face life’s challenges alone.
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