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Moses and the Rebbe

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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Who was Moses? Why, indeed did G-d choose this unknown Israelite refugee to Midian to lead His people out of Egypt and be the conduit for the transmission of G-d’s wisdom to this world? Many answers have been given based on anecdotes recounted in various midrashic sources regarding Moses’ accomplishments in his pre-leadership years. We, however, will attempt to cull an answer from the information provided in the Bible itself.

After the Torah describes Moses’ birth and rescue from the Nile (incidents wherein he didn’t actively or knowingly participate), we are told only three episodes about Moses—all very telling; all sharing the same theme: 1) Moses slays an Egyptian who is beating an Israelite. 2) Moses attempts to prevent the escalation of a skirmish between two Israelites. 3) Moses physically intervenes upon witnessing the unjust harassment of Jethro’s daughters by the local shepherds.

Here’s a person who isn’t afraid to stand up for what is right. He won’t just “mind his own business” when confronted by blatant injustice. And he doesn’t just express his opinion to anyone interested, he takes corrective action—even if these actions are unpopular and may incur others’ wrathful vengeance.

Here’s a person who isn’t afraid to stand up for what is right. He won’t just “mind his own business” when confronted by blatant injustice
Does this sound a little like the role of the main character in countless movies and novels? Well here’s where Moses’ story becomes unique: when G-d approaches Moses, asking him to lead the Israelite nations out of Egypt, Moses refuses. Moses humbly but unsuccessfully pleads with G-d to send another person as messenger—Aaron, the Messiah, or ANYONE… This seems to be an extremely counter-intuitive response. Considering Moses’ background information, we would expect him to gleefully jump at the opportunity to be the hero sent on a mission to save an oppressed nation from the hands of an evil tyrant.

But Moses was also the most humble man to ever live. There wasn’t a shred of ego in all his heroic exploits and he had no desire for fame or glory. True, when there was an injustice which required immediate attention he was the first person to jump into the fray; but in this instance Moses felt that others were equally qualified for the task, and he therefore had no interest in the mission.

The genuine leader possesses a rare mix of fearlessness and humility
And this is precisely why he was chosen. One whose feats are motivated by ego is not a true leader. His preoccupation with writing his own chapter in the annals of history will cloud his priorities and won’t allow him to give the proper attention and respect to his charges. The genuine leader possesses a rare mix of fearlessness and humility.

In every generation there is a Moses who is chosen by G-d to lead His people. The “Moses” whom G-d sent to rehabilitate post-Holocaust Jewry bears uncanny resemblance to his Biblical predecessor. The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, also refused to sit on the sidelines – satisfying himself with tending to the spiritual needs of his handful of followers – while Judaism was being attacked from without and within by the scourge of assimilation. His decades of leadership were a continuous struggle to preserve the integrity of the Jewish nation, the Torah, and the Land of Israel.

And following the example set by Biblical Moses, the Rebbe felt no need to bask in the glow of his staggering successes. Incredibly, the Rebbe never allowed himself to be honored at a dinner or function of any of the hundreds of the institutions he founded. In fact, he never even attended them. The Rebbe never visited any of the numerous cities whose religious scenes were revitalized by his devoted emissaries. There was too much work to do to…

And he handed over the baton to us. Now it is our turn to demonstrate genuine leadership.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Chassidism » Rebbe » "The Rebbe"
History » Egypt
History » Desert Sojourn

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Aaron
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
Jethro
Moses' father-in-law.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.