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גרעין קהילתי וקריית חינוך ע"ש מאיר והראל הינה עמותה שמפעילה תוכניות ופרויקטים בתחומי ישיבה, קהילה, זהות יהודית חברה, צבא ורפואה

A change in leadership in a period of historical change

Parshah and its realization - Parshat Shemot - and the war of the 'Iron Swords' 5784

Rabbi Eliezer Haim Shenvald

Dedicated to the IDF soldiers' success, to safeguard them lest any harm come to them, to the healing of all the wounded and the return of the abducted.

The book of Exodus opens with the people of Israel's transition from being a family to becoming a nation, and with the historical change that takes place, with the descent of the people of Israel from freedom to slavery in Egypt, which was a powerful empire at the time. And the gradual worsening of their servitude, and its decrees:

שמיד שנפטר יעקב התחילו לשעבד בהם מעט

"He writes that as soon as the eyes of Ya'akov closed for the last time, so did the spiritual eyes of the Jewish nation and their hearts, on account of the hardships experienced when they became enslaved" (Da'at Zkenim Bereshit 47:28), even though Yosef’s rule in Egypt continued for another 54 years (ibid). The process of gradual enslavement was led by the Egyptians as a sophisticated plot, to soften the resistance of the people of Israel, to normalize the enslavement and make it a habit:

שכשנפטר יעקב התחילו לשעבדן בשכר ולאחר מיתת השבטים התחילו לשעבדן בחנם אי נמי כשמת יעקב נשתעבדו בהן בפה רך ובמות השבטים בפרך

"When Ya'acov died they began to enslave them for wages and after the death of the tribes they began to enslave them for nothing…." (Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro ibid). Maybe even the leadership didn't notice it.

The people of Israel cried under the burden of slavery, were in great crisis and total despair. Their leadership was also powerless:

תָּנָא: עַמְרָם גְּדוֹל הַדּוֹר הָיָה. כֵּיוָן שֶׁרָאָה שֶׁאָמַר פַּרְעֹה הָרָשָׁע ״כׇּל הַבֵּן הַיִּלּוֹד הַיְאֹרָה תַּשְׁלִיכֻהוּ״, אָמַר: לַשָּׁוְא אָנוּ עֲמֵלִין, עָמַד וְגֵירַשׁ אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ. עָמְדוּ כּוּלָּן וְגֵירְשׁוּ אֶת נְשׁוֹתֵיהֶן. אָמְרָה לוֹ בִּתּוֹ: אַבָּא, קָשָׁה גְּזֵירָתְךָ יוֹתֵר מִשֶּׁל פַּרְעֹה. שֶׁפַּרְעֹה לֹא גָּזַר אֶלָּא עַל הַזְּכָרִים, וְאַתָּה גָּזַרְתָּ עַל הַזְּכָרִים וְעַל הַנְּקֵיבוֹת...

"A Sage teaches: Amram, Moshe's father, was the great man of his generation. Once he saw that the wicked Pharaoh said: “Every son that is born shall be cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive” (Shmot 1:22), he said: We are laboring for nothing by bringing children into the world to be killed. Therefore, he arose and divorced his wife. All others who saw this followed his example and arose and divorced their wives. His daughter, Miriam, said to him: Father, your decree is harsher than Pharaoh's, as Pharaoh decreed only with regard to the males, but you decreed both on the males and on the females…" (Sotah 12a)

The existing leadership was not suitable to lead the people in the situation that had arisen, and to lead them to liberation from slavery and the exodus from Egypt. A different kind of leadership was required! It was necessary to bring about a change!

The Torah describes G-d's revelation to Moshe with blazing fire out of a bush, and the demand to appoint him as a messenger and leader of the people during the crisis, to lead the process of liberation from slavery to freedom, to stand against the Egyptian empire. Moshe was deterred by the mission's magnitude and feared that he would not gain the people's trust:

וַיַּ֤עַן מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֹּ֔אמֶר וְהֵן֙ לֹֽא יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ לִ֔י וְלֹ֥א יִשְׁמְע֖וּ בְּקֹלִ֑י כִּ֣י יֹֽאמְר֔וּ לֹֽא נִרְאָ֥ה אֵלֶ֖יךָ ה'׃

"But Moshe spoke up and said, “What if they do not believe me and do not listen to me, but say: Hashem did not appear to you?” (Shmot 4:1)

According to the Sages, G-d 'reprimanded' him for casting doubt on the people's trust.

אָמַר לוֹ: הֵן מַאֲמִינִים בְּנֵי מַאֲמִינִים, וְאַתָּה אֵין סוֹפְךָ לְהַאֲמִין

"The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moshe: They are believers, the children of believers; and ultimately, you will not believe". (Shabbat 97a)

But on the other hand, it is possible to 'advocate' for Moshe. His apprehension was understandable. His appointment was unexpected, he was not well known to the people, and he was not known as a leading figure who could be trusted, in a time of historical crisis, to face the powerful Egyptian Empire:

והנה משום שלא היו יודעים את משה לגדול בתורה המסורה להם מן האבות, וגם לא נודע בקדושה וחסידות, שהרי היה בנעוריו גדל בפלטין של פרעה ועוסק בחכמות חיצוניות, ומלובש ומדבר כמצרי, וכו'. ולפי דעות בני האדם היה ראוי יותר שיתראה ה' לאהרון קדוש ה' שהיה נביא עוד במצרים, וכו'. וזאת היתה טענת משה רבינו שיאמרו ישראל 'לא נראה אליך ה''

"And this is because they did not see Moshe growing up with the Torah handed down to them from their ancestors, nor was he known for holiness and piety, since in his youth he was raised in Pharaoh's palace and engaged in external wisdom, and dressed and spoke like an Egyptian, etc. And according to different opinions, it was more fitting that G-d should appear to Aaron the Holy one, who was already a prophet in Egypt, etc. And this was Moshe's argument that Israel would say, "Hashem did not appear to you." (HaNetziv – Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin).

Choosing Moshe over Aaron, shows that sometimes in times of crisis and historical changes, a different kind of leadership is needed, which will respond to the new challenges and restore hope. However, there are those who, precisely at this time, raise their eyes to the existing and familiar leadership, hoping that it will provide an answer to the changing situation. A hope that may come with disappointment because when the situation changes, and " what has been, is not what will be", the existing leadership is no longer suitable. At a time of change, a different leadership is required that will adapt to the characteristics of the time and its changes. פרנס לפי דורו

"The level of the leader follows the level of his generation". (Arachin 17a)

It's time for new leaders. Even those who were anonymous before. But then there are suspicious people who raise doubts about their leadership suitability because they were unknown until now.

Therefore, the Almighty required to give Moshe a 'sign' that would express the essence of the 'transformation' required by the leadership, and direct its suitability:

"ועל זה הראה הקב"ה אות המטה שנהפך לנחש. והיה ראש המטה לראש הנחש וקצה המטה לזנב הנחש. וציווהו ה' לאחוז בזנבו ונתהפך למטה, והיה ראוי להיות שוב קצה המטה מה שאין מקום לתופשו כך בכפו, אבל לא כן היה, אלא 'ויהי למטה בכפו', היינו שנתהפך קצה המטה להיות לראש המטה וכדרך שתופשים המטה בכף. ובזה, הראה שאף על פי שאינך כדאי בעיניהם אלא להיות זנב לאריות. מכל מקום בזכות האבות נהפך משה רבנו ראש מנהיגי הדור שהוא משל ל'מטה' ו'שבט'"

"And upon this, the Almighty showed the sign of the rod that turned into a snake. And the top of the rod became the head of the snake, and the end of the rod became the tail of the snake. And He commanded Moshe to grasp its tail to turn into a rod again, and it was supposed to become the end of the rod but instead the tail became the top so he could grab it according to the way a rod is grasped. With this He showed that although they did not believe him and he did not need to be their leader, but on merit of the Patriarchs he became 'a tail unto lions' the leader of the generation". (HaNetziv – Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, ibid).

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