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    How! – D’varim

    Echah, “How!”, figures three times this week – in the Torah portion, in the haftarah, and in the Book of Lamentations.

    The Echah in the Torah portion is a rhetorical question by Moses: Echah essa l’vadi tor’chachem umassa’achem v’riv’chem, “How I can I bear by myself your troublesomeness, your burden and your strife?” (Deut. 1:12).

    Moses is telling the people how hard it is to be a leader. They make his life difficult, they blame him for everything, and they are never satisfied. He gets so weighed down that he probably begins to blame himself whenever anything goes wrong.

    It happens with most leaders. Rabbis are particularly prone to self-doubt. If people don’t come to synagogue, the rabbi thinks it is due to him. If the community moves to another district, he thinks he caused it. If a program is not a success, he accuses himself. Obviously no rabbi is perfect and his failings have an effect, but self-blame is too easy.

    Bear in mind that sometimes a synagogue flourishes regardless of the rabbi; sometimes the rabbi is unfortunately a mediocrity but it is his luck to be in a congregation that suddenly benefits from demographic changes.

    This does not imply that the rabbi is an irrelevancy, but it is unfair for the congregation to think everything is the rabbi’s fault and for the rabbi to blame himself regardless.

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