Monday, February 01, 2010

a feminist model of leadership

The Chasam Sofer contrasts the shirah of Bnei Yisrael, the shirah of the men, which was preceded by an upswing in emunah and trust not only in Hashem but also in Moshe, “Vaya’aminu b’Hashem u’bMoshe avdo,” and which was sung (according to some views) responsively with Moshe, with the shirah of the women, which was led by Miriam in addition to Moshe. Chasam Sofer suggests that this emphasis on Moshe as the conduit to the miraculous opened the door to the cheit ha’eigel. Because so much was trust invested in Moshe as a leader, an authority figure, a miracle-maker, some replacement had to be found when Moshe was missing. The women, on the other hand, never thought of Moshe as the exclusive conduit to the miraculous – their shirah was also sung in response to Miriam, who they valued despite her not performing overt miracles or taking on the overt trappings of leadership. Therefore, the women never succumbed to the draw of the eigel.

Is there perhaps a unique feminist concept of leadership, less concerned with central authoritarian figureheads, which has its own dynamic? Are their advantages to this type of collaborative model?

Interestingly, the haftarah seems to reverse things. It is Devorah who tells Barak to lead the fight alone, yet Barak insists that Devorah participate as well, thereby sharing his authority (and the responsibility for the war).


  1. Men and women handle situations differently.
    Men rely, by nature, on structure. A is in charge, B is handling the finances, C is the equipment supplier, etc. Tasks are divided out so that each person knows his role. This has an advantage in that each person works towards his strength (you hope) and also avoids cooperation which men aren't good at since we're naturally competitive.
    Women, on the other hand, tend to cooperate far better so their organizations tend to be far more nebulous in structure. The goal is the most important thing and working together is a virtue, not an opportunity to one-up your buddy.
    This would fit well with your observation as to why the women did not participate in the cheit haegel.

  2. Have a look at Perek Beis here:

    pc :-)

  3. Or, Devora demonstrated her willingness to share power by telling Barak to lead the battle, while Barak insisted that Devora, the recognized authority figure, participate personally, thus emphasizing and reinforcing her status as charismatic leader.