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לימוד תורה

Leadership and greatness of a ‘Loyal Shepherd’

The Parasha in our everyday life – Parashat Bo - 5783

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - Head of the Hesder Yeshiva 'Meir Harel' Modiin

A national crisis is a time for testing both the public and their leaders. A time of crisis creates a heavy burden of responsibility placed on the shoulders of the leaders, of great stress and difficulty. The leaders are tested for their crisis management and how they formulate the right solution to the problem, calmly, without hesitations. An ability test of their external and internal leadership. External- in front of the crisis causes and internal- in front of the public; to create trust and instill hope. To act in such a way that every part of the public will contribute their best for the common goal. The public looks up to them and looks forward to what they will say and the path they will follow. And no less than that, the public wants to see them as exemplary people with great hearts who they can trust. To see how their leadership talent is manifested. But no less than that, how they rise above petty ego considerations and narrow interests, and act with loyalty and commitment to the nation and its destiny. Even if it involves heavy personal costs; the public wants to make sure their conduct is not arrogant but comes from humility. The public reads its leaders, much more than they think. Even if the leadership tries to beautify the image through public relations, public opinion shapers, strategists and image consultants, in the end the public is not dumb. And if, G-d forbid, it discovers that its leaders are weak and do not live up to their expectations, the distress of the crisis increases. Because the people feel powerless.

From the time the nation of Israel came on the stage of history, it has had to deal with crises of various levels of difficulty, among them crises that threatened its own existence. The national historical memory of the people of Israel knows how to appreciate the leaders of past generations who knew how to lead the public in times of crisis, to a safe shore. The leaders of later generations draw inspiration and thought directions from them, to solve problems in the present.

Moshe Rabbeinu was the first leader to lead the people of Israel. A leader who emerged from a difficult crisis of hard slavery in Egypt, and of terrible punishments. Moshe had to lead the humiliated and oppressed people, in a difficult time. Had to instill in them hope, and the desire to move forward and be redeemed. Moshe Rabbeinu was an exemplary man with special strengths on one hand, but also with great humility: וְהָאִ֥ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֖ה עָנָ֣ו מְאֹ֑ד

"Now Moshe himself was very humble" (Bamidbar 12:3).

In our Parasha, before the plague of darkness, the Torah says about Moshe:

גַּ֣ם הָאִ֣ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֗ה גָּד֤וֹל מְאֹד֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם בְּעֵינֵ֥י עַבְדֵֽי פַרְעֹ֖ה וּבְעֵינֵ֥י הָעָֽם

Moreover, Moshe himself was highly esteemed in the land of Egypt, among Pharaoh’s courtiers and among the people''. (Shmot 11:3)

There are doubled phrases in this verse: the phrase 'highly esteemed' - doubled. And 'in the land of Egypt’, “among Pharaoh’ is doubled.

Ba’al HaTurim explains that the endings of the words גַּ֣ם הָאִ֣ישׁ מֹשֶׁ֗ה in the Pasuk - spell Moshe’s name. A hint of his double greatness" (ibid). The double greatness of Moshe results from his standing as the leader of the people against Pharaoh and Egypt and from his leadership against the people of Israel.

Moshe Rabbeinu was called 'Ra’aya Mehimna'-(רַעֲיָא מְהֵימְנָא) “The loyal Shepherd” (Zohar Part I-106:1). And this is because of his loyalty and commitment to the nation and its destiny with endless devotion, without any hint of personal interest, even at heavy personal costs. He even gave his life for them at the sin of the golden calf. Hashem testifies to his faithfulness:

לֹא־כֵ֖ן עַבְדִּ֣י מֹשֶׁ֑ה בְּכׇל־בֵּיתִ֖י נֶאֱמָ֥ן הֽוּא׃

“Not so with My servant Moshe; he is trusted throughout My household” (Bamidbar 12:7). His faithfulness passed all the tests:

ולא שייך לומר נאמן אלא על מי שיש בידו לעשות ואינו עושה…

"And it is not appropriate to say 'faithful' except for those who have it in their power to do and they don’t …" (Ha'amek Davar ibid). That is why we mention in our morning prayers every Shabbat:

יִשְׂמַח מֹשֶׁה בְּמַתְּנַת חֶלְקוֹ כִּי עֶבֶד נֶאֱמָן קָרָאתָ לּוֹ.

"Moshe will rejoice with the gift that was his portion, for a faithful servant You called him”.  

Out of the greatness of his soul, he continued to lead the people faithfully even when the people were oppositional. Even when there were those who made it difficult for him, challenged him, and were ungrateful. The ‘Loyal Shepherd' did not abandon the flock during a crisis and fought for his people.

Therefore, Moshe Rabbeinu is a model of greatness and leadership, and future generations should learn from him.

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