Aug. 13, 2020

Representative Max Rose on Exodus 32:4 – "Leadership: What we learn from the Golden Calf"

Mark’s great friend, Democrat Congressman Max Rose, joins him on the podcast today. Max is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the London School of Economics, who has served as an active duty officer in Afghanistan from 2012-2013 and earned a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Combat Infantry Badge. Max is Ranger-qualified, continues to serve in the National Guard, and is the first post-9/11 combat veteran to represent New York City. The passage he has chosen to discuss with Mark is Exodus 32:4, the passage which he has decided will be his son’s Bar Mitzvah portion 13 years from now.

Max begins today’s discussion by sharing his summary of the passage and how it provides an example of speaking truth to power, and then he and Mark offer differing perspectives on Aaron’s leadership within it. They follow with an in depth investigation into the nature of leadership both in the passage and in the world today, particularly in relation to Max’s work with the military and in politics, and they review the moral obligation we all have to question authority as Moses did. The conversation finishes with Max sharing the lessons he has learned about mankind. Today’s episode exemplifies the beauty of the Torah in its openness to interpretation as well as its timeless guidance. As Max states, everyone has an opportunity to lead at some point in their lives, and today’s passage and resulting analysis offer listeners valuable perspective to consider when their opportunity arrives.

Episode Highlights:

  • Max’s summary of the passage
  • Speaking truth to power
  • Differing perspectives on Aaron’s leadership
  • The hardest thing to do in leadership
  • The moral obligation to question authority
  • Strong leadership in times of failure
  • The lessons which Max has learned about mankind


“Moses subsequently speaks truth to power…pushes back upon God using God’s own words.”

“One could also argue he bought some time.”

“We don’t teach leadership enough to young people.”

“Who among us knows what we would do if we were in Aaron’s position?”

“It is confidence in God. It is confidence that God will not put ego first, will not put arrogance first, but that God will put His own sense of moral clarity, moral consistency, and rightness first.”

“Moses always defends his people externally, and criticizes them internally.”

“He leads his leader.”

“We have far too much arrogance in our society today.”

Exodus 32:4 This he took from them and cast in a mold, and made it into a molten calf. And they exclaimed, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”


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