Judah Touro

Leadership in the Torah

It’s funny how some things coalesce. In the middle of a contentious election, we are also reading about our first matriarch and patriarch — Sarah and Avraham. What made G-d choose them to be the progenitors of our Jewish family? Were they born true leaders, or did they evolve into the role?

Reading accounts in Genesis, the answers are not hard to discern. They were flawed human beings, but they had vision and displayed great kindness and generosity. The youngest students discovered that in SARAH LAUGHS by Jacqueline Jules. But I also wanted them to see these same leadership qualities in a more prosaic setting, so I read to them a new book — JUDAH TOURO DIDN’T WANT TO BE FAMOUS by Audrey Ades, set in early 19th century New Orleans. Wealthy merchant Touro is wounded in the War of 1812 and realizes life is meaningless without helping others. So he becomes a philanthropist (including buying the freedom of many slaves and setting them up in business). Most importantly, he insisted on anonymity, which Maimonides identified as one of the highest forms of tzedakah.

For our older children, we had more of a free form discussion, comparing and contrasting moral and leadership qualities in Noah and Avraham. We went through the Torah line by line. A summary of the comparison can be found here: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/…/from-noah-to-abraham/What made Avraham a great leader for any age? Speaking truth to power, in which he argues with God about whether it is right to destroy all of Sodom and Gomorrah, sweeping away the good with the bad. Read more about it here: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/…/challenging-the…/

An excellent resource for families to learn about all of these issues is in GENESIS: THE BOOK WITH SEVENTY FACES by Esther Takae. Whether we take it literally or not, the Torah is a transformational document that has a lot to teach us.

Posted by Rachel Haus