Moses, the Jewish Leader



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Moses, the Jewish Leader

By Uzi ben Ami

Moses, the most famous of all personalities in the Bible, was chosen to be the leader of the Jewish people, to lead them out of the slavery in Egypt and to give them the Torah. What was it about Moses that made him G-d's choice of the Jewish leader and not any one else in his generation? Remember that there were other leaders that existed during this time: Aaron, Moses' brother, and Nachson, the son of Aminadav, just to mention a few.

Let us remember, Moses, did not grow up in the Jewish community. He was abandoned while still an infant and was adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh, growing up in the royal palace. He was insulated from the pains of Jewish slavery. While his brethren endured the wretched slavery, Moses enjoyed the fine life as the "grandson" of Pharaoh.

The other leaders, Aaron and Nachson, lived with and ministered to the Jewish community. They were known and respected leaders of the Jews while in slavery. Would not it be a logical choice that Aaron or Nachson, or some one else, who was known and respected should be selected by G-d to be the chosen leader to take the Jews out of Egypt, to speak with Pharaoh, to receive the Torah, and to speak to G-d?

Perhaps we can find our answer based on a teaching in the Talmud, (Barachot folio 20A). Rav Pappa asks Abye, (two of the rabbis of the Talmud) why is it that the earlier generation was privy to having miracles done for them, whilst in this generation, the generation of Rav Pappa and Abye, miracles do not happen in their generation.

Rav Pappa continues his question to Abye, "Is it because of learning?" In the generation of Rav Yehuda, (who lived earlier) they only had expertise in one part of the Mishna, the part dealing with damages. When Rav Yehuda had to deal with issues involving laws of purity, he had much difficulty.

"We" he continued, "teach all of the six parts of the Mishna. We even have thirteen academies that learn in depth the laws of purity!

"Yet, when there was a draught and it was declared a fast day, Rav Yehuda would just take off his shoes (this was part of the custom in their days, that on fast days they would not wear leather, like we do on Yom Kippur) and the rain would begin to pour!

"When we have a fast day declared," he continued, "we can fast and cry the entire day, but heaven does not pay any attention to our cries!"

Abye answered him that the earlier generations were willing to give their lives for "kiddush ha-Shem" (sanctification of the name of G-d). "We," Abye continued, "are not willing to give up ourselves for the sake of heaven."

Abye then gave the example of Rav Ada bar Ahava who saw a women in the market wearing a garment that caused men to lust after her. Incensed with this impropriety, he ripped up the garment only to learn that the wearer was not a Jewish girl.

From the above we see that above all, the importance of upholding the Jewish law is much more important that the study of it. Even more so, special credit is given to the person when he must put himself in jeopardy for the respect of G-d.

We can find a parallel with Moses. When he was yet in Pharaoh's house he went walking outside and saw an Egyptian taskmaster whipping a Jew. Now let us understand this in perspective. In Egypt during this period, the law was that Jews were slaves and had no rights. It was perfectly permissible and even desirable for an Egyptian to whip and beat a Jew in order to get him to produce more work. Moses knew that. To interfere was to break the law; to kill the Egyptian who was carrying out the desire of Pharaoh was much more wrong! Yet Moses not just stopped the Egyptian from beating the Jew, he killed him!

Most people in Moses' position and place would have just walked on past and try not to focus on such a terrible event. Why should some one endanger themselves, especially one who has such a privileged and protected life?

Yet in spite of all of this, Moses was willing to risk all that he had, his position and wealth, even perhaps his life, to save another Jew who was being wronged in the eyes of G-d.

Similarly, we find Moses who has just had to run for his life to Midian, seeing the daughters of Yethro being denied the ability to water their father's sheep, Moses who just had to flee for his life should have not gotten involved. But Moses being true to his character endangers himself to help them!

When a person exhibits such concern for the other with such total disregard for his own person, much less with out concern for his own personal gain, is not he the perfect candidate to lead the Jews out of Egypt and be G-d's intermediate to give the divine law?


from the February 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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