In this week's parsha Miriam and Aharon criticize Moshe over his Cushite wife and Miriam gets tzara'at, "leprosy". (Aharon gets off. I'm not sure why that is.) The torah is short on details. Tonight our associate rabbi used this as the basis of a nice little drash on prejudice and dealing with the stranger in your midst.
Something he said in passing clicked with a midrash I read last night to send my thinking in a completely different direction. According to this midrash -- and you should note that for many midrashim there are equal and opposite midrashim, so take them with a grain of salt -- Miriam had been talking with Moshe's wife, Tzippora, when Eldad and Medad broke out in prophecy. Tzippora, according to the midrash, said something along the lines of "ouch, I pity their poor wives", and went on to explain that since Moshe became a prophet he'd been neglecting his obligations to his wife -- he was busy serving God and Israel instead, one gathers. Miriam said "oh, this is terrible" and went off to chastise Moshe for the way he treated his wife, and got punished. It's a different spin from the common interpretation that the criticism was about the marriage (to a non-Hebrew).
This, in turn, got me thinking about the obligations and effects of leadership. At least in the Reform movement, congregations tend to expect an awful lot of their rabbis. My rabbi works way more than the conventional 40-hour week, and he has to be on call pretty much all the time. He takes work home at night. None of this is unusual (again, in the movement -- I can't generalize). Do we, collectively, expect our rabbis to neglect their family obligations in favor of congregational obligations? Is that really fair? Is it just par for the course, or can we do something about it?
Again, speaking only of the Reform movement, there's a lot of resistance, from both congregants and rabbis, to letting lay people do some of the work. I don't know how we get better about that so we don't burn out our leaders. Moshe ended up appointing 70 elders to help him, but it wasn't his idea. How do we get more help for our leaders, and how do we get that help accepted? No answers, just questions.
That's not really the direction I expected this to go when I started writing, by the way. I was just going to comment on the load we place on our leaders and stop there.