Power and Responsibility: CJL May 2, 2012
1 א
Babylonian Talmud, Brachot 32a - 2
Translation Original
And the Lord spoke to Moses, Hurry down, for your people. (Exodus 32:7) What is meant by 'Hurry down, for your people'? R. Eleazar said: The Holy One, blessed be God, said to Moses: Moses, descend from your greatness. Have I at all given to you greatness save for the sake of Israel? And now Israel have sinned; then why do I want you? Straightway Moses became powerless and he had no strength to speak. When, however, [God] said, Let Me alone that I may destroy them, Moses said to himself: This depends upon me, and straightway he stood up and prayed vigorously and begged for mercy. It was like the case of a king who became angry with his son and began beating him severely. His friend was sitting before him but was afraid to say a word until the king said, Were it not for my friend here who is sitting before me I would kill you. He said to himself, This depends on me, and immediately he stood up and rescued him. [Soncino translation. Edited for clarity and gender equality]
+שמות ל"ב+ וידבר ה' אל משה לך רד, מאי לך רד? אמר רבי אלעזר, אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה: משה, רד מגדולתך! כלום נתתי לך גדולה אלא בשביל ישראל, ועכשיו ישראל חטאו - אתה למה לי? מיד תשש כחו של משה ולא היה לו כח לדבר. וכיון שאמר: +דברים ט'+ הרף ממני ואשמידם, אמר משה: דבר זה תלוי בי - מיד עמד ונתחזק בתפלה ובקש רחמים. משל, למלך שכעס על בנו והיה מכהו מכה גדולה, והיה אוהבו יושב לפניו ומתירא לומר לו דבר. אמר המלך: אלמלא אוהבי זה שיושב לפני הרגתיך! אמר: דבר זה תלוי בי - מיד עמד והצילו.
Based on this text...

1. How does Moses lose his power?

2. What is the source of Moses' renewed power?

3. What tools does Moses employ in exercising his renewed power? Why?

4. In what contexts do you feel powerless?

5. Have you had a revelation or renewed awareness of your power?

Exodus Rabbah 27:9
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כל הימים שאדם חבר לא איכפת לו בצבור ואינו נענש עליו, נתמנה אדם בראש ונטל טלית לא יאמר לטובתי אני נזקק לא איכפת לי בצבור אלא כל טורח הצבור עליו, אם ראה אדם מעביר בייא על חבירו או עובר עבירה ולא ממחה בידו הוא נענש עליו, ורוח הקדש צווחת בני אם ערבת לרעך, אתה ערב עליו תקעת לזר כפיך, אמר לו הקב"ה אתה הכנסת עצמך לזירה, ומי שהוא מכניס עצמו לזירה או ניצוח או נוצח, א"ל הקב"ה אני ואתה עומדים בזירה או נצחת או נצחתי.
As long as one is but an ordinary scholar, one has no concern with the congregation and is not punished [for its lapses], but as soon as one is appointed head and dons the cloak [of leadership], one must no longer say: ‘I live for my own benefit, I care not about the congregation,’ but the whole burden of the community is on that person's shoulders. If one sees a person causing suffering to another, or transgressing, and does not prevent that person, then that person is held punishable. The Holy Spirit then exclaims, “‘My child, if you have become surety for your neighbor’- you are responsible for your neighbor, because ‘you have shaken hands on behalf of a stranger’” (Proverbs 6:1). The Holy Blessed One says to that person: “‘You [by assuming office] have placed yourself in the arena’, and one who places oneself in the arena stands either to fail or win. We two stand in the arena; either you prevail or I.” [Soncino translation]
3 ג
Based on this text...

1. How does a person transform into a leader?

2. What is the source of a leader's power?

3. When does this power create opportunity?