A Teacher Leader must be a role model


A Leader-Teacher Has to Be a Role Model

When I was 17, I received a big honor by being invited by the Ramah Camp movement to spend my CIT summer in the Poconos in a special training program for counselors. Eighty of us were chosen from all the campers of our year to attend this program called Mador. In exchange for taking the program, the following year we would be senior counselors, skipping our Junior counselor year. I learned more in that summer that I would eventually use in my Rabbinate than any other training program I would attend. They trained us to be not just counselors but pedagogues. Every part of our day and all our daily activities were opportunities to teach. It began with having to get up well in advance of our campers to take care of our needs so that when the campers were waken individually by us to bring them warmly into daily consciousness, we could be fully attentive to them.

We were taught that every moment in life and every experience was an opportunity to learn and to grow. We were taught that the hardest thing to teach was a behavioral change in a person’s life that would open them up for the better. We were taught that our best tool was personal example. We modeled behavior that they could see and learn from.

In Hebrew it was called DOOGMA, being an example. All the words in the world meant little if the person espousing them did not follow them themselves, and if you were a person of importance your DOOGMA powers were dramatically increased. This explains one of the great enigmas in the Bible.

Is there a greater Jewish leader than Moses, and is there a greater sense of injustice than the punishment he received from God? Let me take you back to the story.

Earlier in his leadership the mob of slaves that he liberated were complaining of not having enough water to drink. God tells Moses to go to a rock and strike it with his rod and water will flow, enough for all the people and their livestock. Many years later this would happen again. The people true to their norm were complaining bitterly about not having enough water to drink. They began to rewrite history or what we call today alternate facts. They kvetched about how it would have been better to have died earlier. Why did Moses bring them out of Egypt to a desert where there was no grain or figs, or vines or pomegranates? I’m surprised they didn’t add 5-star restaurants and al fresco dining on the Nile.

Moses and Aaron retreat to the Tent of Meeting to ask God what to do. He tells Moses to take his rod and go to a rock and speak to it to give water. This will certainly prove to the people the power of God.

Moses, watched by the mob goes to the rock, but he clearly is not happy with the people. He loses his cool and says, “Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?” Then in his anger and perhaps with an understandable loss of concentration, hits the rock instead of speaking to it. Yes, water comes rushing out but God is not pleased, so after giving one third of his life to serving these people and doing all that God has asked of him he makes one mistake and for that God punishes him by not letting him have the only thing that mattered. He will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.

Is that in any way fair? Send him to the penalty box, bench him for a while, or here is a radical idea, forgive his one mistake after a lifetime of service! But that is not what happens, and I believe it all comes down to one word, DOOGMA.

We say the bigger they are the harder they fall. How much more, the bigger they are the more of us they cause to fall?

If a nobody does something wrong how many people are really impacted by seeing what he did, but a sports star, a movie star, a Facebook influencer, a cheating evangelical head of a major religious University, or a philandering Rabbi, how many lives will they have influenced by their deeds?

Some will see the behavior as admirable and should be copied, while others will see the hypocrisy of the behavior and walk away from the values that person represented to them. Which brings me to the last night of the RNC’s convention.

The President of the United States, whether you like him or hate him is the DOOGMA in chief of this country. More than his words, which are often bad enough, are his actions. I watched little of the RNC convention, but I listened to the fact checkers for my own sanity. I thought I should at least look at the president’s speech. Look that is until I saw the people there and the president, before during and after, mingling with the people and what I saw was appalling. We have lost over 180,000 fellow citizens. Over 6 million of our brothers and sisters have been infected and here was the president of the United States, the Vice President who is also the chair of the task force on Covid, a disease that apparently has been vanquished, and almost no one had masks on. Without any social distancing and few masks well over 1000 people, many shakers and movers; the rich, the powerful, the connected, and no one is following the rules that the President’s own task force recommends. I and the over 20 million viewers did not need to hear a speech, the DOOGMA language was loud and clear.

“You who wear masks are rubes. You are suckers, or weak followers of weak leaders. Look at us, the power brokers. We will show you what to really do, how to really behave. Follow us and we will lead you to greatness again.”

What greatness is that? How may of the people who were there but were not lucky enough to be offered a Covid test will catch the disease or spread it? (It seems among the high and there are those who are still higher and mightier). How many people watching will not wear a mask? How may people will get sick and die because directly or indirectly the DOOGMA of the president was at fault.

He did it again a few days later when he flew down to Texas to see the damage from the hurricane. He was surrounded by people in charge of the recovery. He and almost all those surrounding him were not wearing a mask.


In the time it took you to read this essay 4 or 5 people died in the country from Covid. This president is literally killing us.

As always please share with your family and friends, especially those who support Trump as I do not have enough enemies already.

I have not heard from many of you in a while, so your private comments are always appreciated.



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Rabbi Paul Plotkin

I am a retired Conservative Rabbi. I was a pulpit Rabbi for 40 years. I supervise a chain of kosher Delis called Ben's .