Erica Brown






Leadership in the Wilderness represents years of studying and teaching leadership and years of studying and teaching the Hebrew Bible.


This book brings those worlds together through essays on a much neglected book of the Bible: the book of Numbers. Musicals have taught us Genesis. Movies have taught us Exodus, but only failure teaches us to read Numbers. The transition time between leaving oppression and arriving at the Promised Land took us to a desert that tested us and our leadership. That transition taught us a great deal about what it takes to prepare and confront uncertainty and how important vision is when you are not sure where you are or where you are going. It takes great leadership to rebuild trust after authority breaks down.


I have always been intrigued by power and powerlessness and how power within institutions works. Spending time in sacred pages helped me understand why truths about human adventures so long ago still hold truths about human nature today and how the wilderness is an apt and poignant metaphor for leadership.


I loved writing Happier Endings. It was an experiment for me, and it took a lot out of me. Jon Karp from Simon and Schuster challenged me to write a book to help people die better. There must be a better way. Of course there must be, but what was it?


As always, when I write a book, I start by reading. I order a mountain of books on a subject, plow through them and try to organize my thoughts in relation to what others think. The first iteration of the book was pretty academic. I was still distant from the subject. Jon read it and said, "Stories, Erica. Stories." He was right. And so I had to let go of the words of others - the researchers and the textbooks - and instead enter the world of pain and suffering of friends and strangers. And what a remarkable universe it was.


Those strangers became friends, sisters and brothers who taught me how to how to die better and through forgiveness and regret, meaningful last words and last gifts, showed me how to live better.


Graffiti spotted on the border of DC across the street from Bloomingdale’s: “Consume less. Create more.”


There are a lot of reasons we consume that have little to do with need. Let’s take eating as an example. We’re bored. We’re sad. We’re in a social setting around food for too long. We’re looking for distraction. We imagine the happiness we might feel if only…We try to fill an emotional void with food, and it never works because the hole in our inner universe can only be healed with more love, more intimacy, more purpose or more meaning. We read in Psalms 63:5, “My soul will be comforted, as with good food; and my mouth will give you praise with songs of joy.” When we can’t find “soul comfort,” we may seek it in other ways, ways that usually leave us empty, or as Charles Schulz once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”


In this week’s Talmud study in Yoma – the tractate that deals with the laws and rituals of Yom Kippur, we encounter “shiurim” or the smallest measure of food that constitutes eating on Yom Kippur. Is it an olive measure of food, an egg volume of food or the volume of a date – standard Talmudic food measurements? Measurements in the ancient world were not done with Swiss precision...


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Forthcoming Books

Happier Endings

Leadership in the


Are You Full Yet?


“You will eat and be satisfied and give thanks to the Lord your God for the fertile land that He has given you.”


Deuteronomy 8:10



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"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."                -John Quincy Adams