by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner & Ari Deller
Saturday, 27
March 2021
Idea
12:00

Lessons from Moses for our political class

As the weekend of Passover begins, we too need a figure to lead us from plague to liberation
by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner & Ari Deller
Moses would be a rogue choice for PM but not a bad one. Credit: IMDB

This weekend the festival of Passover begins, when Jews commemorate Moses taking a beaten-down nation of slaves from the clenched fist of ancient Egypt, then world’s mightiest empire and bringing them to freedom.

Moses had a speech impediment, a clearly defined awareness of his own faults, and a total lack of personal ambition. That is to say: he’s not like our current Prime Minister. But he has plenty to teach Boris Johnson, and the rest of our political class.

Like the importance of truth. Being authentic doesn’t necessarily win political points in the short term. But The Moses Model shows that it does in the long term it does. Trust can be built with the electorate (or Israelite post Exodus multitude) so that governing and governed partner each other for the good of the country. A leader tells the truth. Even when the numbers are bad, they tell it how it is.

Crossing the Jordan River, Moses assures the Israelites that the mightier, more populous nations on the other side would lose; but not through the Israelites, through the might of God. Not because of the Israelites’ virtue, but the other nations’ wickedness. Being truthful and frank must take precedence over spin. Credibility is only earned through being credible.

A Moses-inspired ministerial model of leadership would centre on humility. The ability to retrospectively say “I was wrong, and could be wrong again”. Coming into contact with God for the first time, Moses hides his face, knowing his place before the Divine. Tasked with leading the Israelites at that same meeting, he protests that he can’t do so — he’s “slow of speech”. It is decided that his brother Aaron will serve as his spokesman, with Moses placing the words in Aaron’s mouth. Moses is aware of his shortcomings; his absence of ego propels him to form that symbiotic partnership for the good of his nation. Understanding our limitations is crucial for setting expectations, and being clear to others about them preserves an honest dialogue about what we can do together.

The last ingredient in the Moses Ministerial Model is courage. Having fortitude in the face of uncertainty. This is what adherence to truth and humility bring: a confrontation with reality. Sometimes this exposure brings one at odds with opponents and superiors. Throughout Moses’s leadership, he does not back down from dispute for the good of what is right. He kills an Egyptian slave master who’s torturing an Israelite slave, and uses his pluck and political acumen to negotiate God out of punishing the Israelites. To take a leap which may bring short-term pain for the good of long-term wellbeing is a difficult move to make – personal, political or otherwise. It’s one which only the highest calibre of leaders take.

Mosaic leadership has a track record of carrying a nation from plague to liberation. Today’s leaders could learn a lesson or two from it.

Join the discussion


  • Boris Johnson as Moses? I am assuming this article is the famed Jewish sense of humour. No Charles Heston either, maybe played by Jerry Seinfeld. Rather than down the mountain with the Ten Commandments Boris would come out of number 10 with the list of the Ten Correctnesses, and not from God, but from Carrie Symonds and her squad of good thinkers. No, it just does not seem to work. But then, seeing the writer, Rabbis are possibly not what they used to be.

    And as far as speaking the Truth? From Number 10? And from Boris? no, I just do not see that part either. But I do wish everyone a Happy Passover.

  • Oh please. What claptrap. First Moses was a religious not political leader who was chosen by God rather than elected. He was also not perfect and was prevented from entering the Promised land largely for showing insufficient humility to God.
    Humility and getting elected leader do not go together: If you were humble you would not try to get elected leader. Callaghan, Brown and May were appropriately humble but were not really elected. Heath, Wilson, Thatcher, Blair, Cameron, Boris; arrogant as hell.
    As to honesty none of them are. What kind if dissembler could call a 1% rise even in an environment of 0.7% inflation, a Cut? Why would you complain that a Bill had no mention of Women when as a Barrister you know perfectly well that Bills are not gendered they speak of people specifically victims of sexual assault. Not only are the left fundamentally dishonest they are also violent and an awful lot of them are antiemetic too. The lesson endeth.

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