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January 8, 2021
24 Tevet 5781
Parashat Shemot
Exodus 1:1 - 6:1

Dear Friends,

There once was a man who grew up in a palace. He was slow of speech and observant of the world around him. Not being taught how to combat injustice when he saw it, he simply used his power. One day, he killed a man who was physically abusive to another and he ran from the palace after being seen.

He met a woman at a well who brought him home to her father. She married him and he became a shepherd -- a job that did not call for him to speak much but did ask that he be observant of the world around him lest any sheep go astray. He did not seem to miss palace life.

One day when he was chasing after one of his sheep, he saw something that made him stop in his tracks. It was a bush that was aflame but was not consumed by fire, so he stopped and looked. Like we have said, he was an observant man. He paid attention to the world around him. Then it began: the conversation, the invitation to lead, to be an agent of change of transformation. A voice from within the bush demanded his attention. He was told to take off his shoes as he was standing on holy ground.

And so begins the long relationship between God and Moses, when he is asked to lead the people. Against all odds, Moses, a man adopted into a family of wealth and power, develops a sense of justice that recognizes the injustice that surrounds him as slaves are beaten by taskmasters.

This opening conversation is not quick nor is it easy. Moses needs to be convinced. God needs to identify God’s self and identify why Moses' help is required. Throughout the conversation, Moses continues to need convincing. He does not feel up to the task, in spite of growing up in the palace. He feels unprepared. He needs help because he is no good at talking, so Aaron, his brother, comes to help. (Exodus 2:23-4:20)

This week’s Torah portion comes at the right time, as we are reeling from the images that flashed across our screens just two short days ago. We saw the image of a man, a so-called leader, inciting an insurrection and putting our center of government at risk. We saw a man who more than anything wants to be loved at all costs, no matter what it costs or who it costs. We experienced the pain of seeing our national holy ground desecrated and the pain of seeing the deep racism of this country unmasked yet again. This week's events leave us with the question: what does real leadership look like?

This Shabbat, we look at a prime example of what it means to be a leader. A leader is not a person out of central casting, with no visible flaws; rather it is Moses who we will watch struggle with what it means to lead others. He learns along the way and begins his journey with the knowledge that this task is not about him -- it is about the people he is being asked to lead . He questions whether he is good enough and knows right from the start that he cannot do it alone. Moses struggles with the responsibility of leading; luckily, he has help along the way and he listens and learns. Watching this process teaches all of us that we are indeed our best selves when we work with others.

On this Shabbat, it is especially important to remember that this type of leadership is possible. It is not perfect, but it is not about the leader; it is about the people and their needs. It is about working together. 

We pray for healing, with the knowledge that much of the work lies in our own hands working side by side to create a more caring and just world.  May we have the strength to go forward with hope and lovingkindness. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Tue, June 15 2021 5 Tammuz 5781