reluctant leadership: a manifesto for jewish education?

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  • April 21, 2011

From Dahlia Lithwick’s excel­lent d’var torah arti­cle, “The Fifth Passover Question: Who’s going to lead the Seder?

Passover is really the only Jewish hol­i­day in which most house­holds tap some layper­son to be pro­fes­sional clergy for a night, and—as my friend Lisa observed yesterday—it’s thus apt that this hol­i­day cel­e­brates one of the most reluc­tant lead­ers in all of bib­li­cal his­tory. Here is poor Moses, beg­ging to be relieved of the respon­si­bil­ity of Sherpa-ing his peo­ple from one dusty place to another—pleading unfit­ness, a speech imped­i­ment, and the absence of mean­ing­ful lead­er­ship qual­i­ties. And here we all are, thou­sands of years later, plead­ing unfit­ness, per­for­mance anx­i­ety, and the absence of mean­ing­ful lead­er­ship qualities.

Stop me if this is start­ing to sound familiar.

Maybe the real les­son of Passover is that nobody—in any generation—feels fit to lead a bunch of other peo­ple, but they do it any­way, because in the end some­body has to. Maybe it’s not just the story of the Exodus we are pass­ing down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, but the trick of lead­ing, when all you ever wanted to do was follow.