This week I am once again back in Charlotte, North Carolina working with the next class of Wexner Fellows teaching a leadership seminar in Difficult Conversations. This particular group is comprised of Jewish professionals in their thirties and forties years who serve the wider Jewish community as rabbis and philanthropists, heads of schools and heads of camps, etc. It is perhaps the tenth time that I’ve gotten to work with a group of Wexner Fellows in one capacity or another and I am always so grateful for the experience. They always ask hard questions and make me think about the material in new ways. Each group teaches me something different, but often what impresses me most is the deep commitment to justice that is so much a part of the Jewish community—the desire to wrestle with super difficult systemic issues in order to stand with whomever is being persecuted, oppressed, left out of the conversation.
Frequently, my work with the Wexner Fellows has taken place right before the feast of Purim which celebrates the story of Esther. It is a book of the bible that both Jews and Christians share, but is much less known among Christians, probably because—as far as I can tell—it only appears once a year in the lectionary and it’s on a weekday. Furthermore, it is only a small portion of the book that we hear, a part that is not actually in the Hebrew original. Being with the Fellows reminds me that Esther’s story, though, is not to be forgotten. While it is set in 4th century BC Persia, it continues to have relevance in the world today. So many of the same dynamics present in this soap opera are still happening and echo the same questions we’ve been talking about in the leadership seminar: How should I use my power here? How do I exercise my voice? At what cost to myself? To the institution I am a part of? What’s the personal algorithm by which I make that decision?
In 2023, today, March 2nd is the one day we get to hear from the book of Esther in the lectionary. Join me in marking the occasion and pondering the hard questions. My preaching can be found here.