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THE MAKING OF A GADOL - A LEADER
In this week’s Parsha, we meet Moshe Rabbenu - Moses our Teacher, for the very first time.
Last week, as we concluded the Book of Genesis, we bade farewell to the patriarchs and matriarchs, and now, as we embark upon the study of the Book of Exodus, we commence the story of the Jewish people, and for the very first time, we meet Moshe Rabbenu - Moses our Teacher, the greatest man who ever lived. What rendered Moshe great? What are the qualities that enable a man to transcend himself and become a spiritual giant? It is written "Vayigdal Moshe" - ."Moshe grew up, (became great) and went out to his brethren and saw their burdens..."(Exodus 2:11). Moshe not only saw his people’s pain, but he felt it and he not only felt it, but he strove to do something about it.
Raised in the palace of the Pharaoh, he was a royal prince, an heir to the throne of the mightiest empire in the world. He could have shut his eyes and remained indifferent to the anguished cries of his brethren, but he chose to give up the magic of the palace for their wretched slave camps. He took on their torment; he wept for them, he prayed for them, he fought for them, and he felt compassion for them - and that is greatness. The pain that Moshe felt for his fellow Jews remained forever etched on his heart. When he was forced to flee from Pharaoh and his first son was born, he called him "Gershom" which means, "We are strangers in a land that is not ours”. And when he saw the burning bush, he once again recalled the suffering of his brethren who were engulfed in the fires of Egypt, but who despite their terrible ordeal, were not consumed and remained Jews.
The Midrash relates that prior to commissioning Moshe with his mission, G-d gave him yet one more test. While Moshe was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, in the desert, a little lamb ran away. Moshe, concerned for his charge, went in search of it. After a while, he found the kid drinking at a brook.
"My poor little lamb," Moshe said, reaching out for it. "I didn’t know that you were thirsty. Forgive me, you must be weary." And with that, he picked up the lamb, placed it on his shoulder, and carried it back to the flock.
Then a Heavenly voice was heard: "This is the man who is worthy of shepherding My people. "And so, Moshe became the Ro’eh Ne’eman - the loyal shepherd of Israel.”
Moshe was brilliant, strong, handsome and powerful. The Bible testifies that no man ever lived who even came close to him.Yet that which rendered him worthy of leadership was neither his brilliance nor his strength, but the tenderness with which he carried that little lamb on his shoulder. It is this trait of compassion that separates one man from another and endows him with majesty and greatness.
We too must aspire to that greatness and to acquire it, we need not possess a sharp intellect, nor great wealth - just a loving, compassionate heart. Let us begin by extending more kindness and more love, and let that kindness and love spill over into all our relationships.