Timeless Tales for Inspired Living

 Portraits in Leadership

Course Overview

Lesson 1: Wisdom requires that we carefully choose the battles we wish to fight and the wrongs we feel we must right. Sometimes, it turns out that all we are defending is our pride.

The Jewish leader we explore in this lesson managed to revive the fabric of Jewish life without antagonizing the ruling Roman powers of the time. What was the secret to his leadership?

Lesson 2: Many of us have had a special teacher in our lives- someone who we trusted utterly to put our interests first and who may have gone out on a limb to ensure that we got the support we needed.

The Jewish leader we explore in this lesson was a scholar, a visionary leader, but most of all, a devoted teacher to the generations.

At times, he hovered in the background, trusting his student’s to rise to the challenge and act on their own. At times he rose up like a fiercely protective lioness defending her cubs. But always, the needs of his students came first. And he considered everyone a beloved student.

Lesson 3: Although revolutionaries may take on unpopular causes, they are generally nurtured by a group of friends or mentors that provide strength and support as they wag the war of ideas. But how many people can stand up to the censure of others when they are totally alone?

The Jewish leader we explore in this lesson is of an individual of rare integrity, willing to leave behind home and financial security to those who shared his passion for Jewish thought. But the greatest test of his life was yet to come. Would he be willing to part from the colleagues who meant everything to him to defend absolute truth?

Lesson 4: Langston Hughes asks, “What happens to a dream deferred?” Many of us have felt the sense of rage and loss that comes from laying a dream to rest. The Jewish leader we explore in this lesson however, did not defer dreams, but embarked on the arduous path of making the dream come true.

At forty, an age when many people mourn lost opportunities; this individual began to pursue a dream. He invested more then twenty-five years of his life into the dream and lived to see it spring to life. When, in a few tragic weeks, the dream was destroyed, he did not despair. With tenacious optimism and perseverance, he began to rebuild. And the fruits of his efforts are still with us today. 

Lesson 5: What will this scholar student do when his primary Jewish teacher, turns heretic and colludes with the Romans in oppressing his own people?

The Rabbis refuse to even speak his name. Reviled and ostracized, he is left alone in a private hell of his own making. He may be able to flee his past but he cannot flee himself.

And now his great student must choose his own response. Will he side with his colleagues and turn away from his old teacher? Or, knowing his teacher as no one else knows him, does his conscience dictate another decision?

Lesson 6: The book of Genesis speaks of the epic struggle between the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau, from whom would descend, respectively, the Jewish people and Rome. Jacob bequeathed his children the mandate of teaching the world about G‑d; Esau fathered a people that would conquer nations and build the infrastructure of modern civilization. At times, these worldviews have clashed, with terrible results. But what would happen if peace could exist between brothers, with each benefiting from what the other could provide? The Jewish leader we explore in this lesson lived in such an era, providing a glimpse of the possibility of idyllic co-existence, a glimmer of perfect time.