Parshas Shmos – The Faithful Shepherd

Sheep Grazing in ValleyMoshe (Moses) would have never been elected president.

Not only that, he never would have never even gotten a job as a rabbi – he wouldn’t have made it past the search committee.

But, that’s OK, because he never would have run for office or applied for these positions.

Think about it — what do we look for in our leaders? Whether seeking the ideal candidate to lead the free world or guide our local Temple, we are inevitably drawn to relatively superficial qualities. Often, we appreciate oratorical skill more than the ideas behind the words, confidence over character, and drama over deeds. We want someone to look us in the eye and say they can get the job done, regardless of whether or not they have any record of accomplishment that would indicate they could actually do so.

To be clear, this is the reality with candidates from all political parties, and is sadly true even when choosing religious leaders, no matter the denomination.

In other words, we choose the anti-Moshe.

As this week’s Torah portion makes clear, leadership was the furthest thing from Moshe’s mind. When approached by G-d to take the leadership role, he hid his face in humility and begged G-d to choose someone more worthy. The Torah also tells us, that this spiritual giant, who was destined to stand up to kings, couldn’t even speak without stuttering. So why was he chosen?

Despite being raised among royalty, in the lap of luxury, Moshe left it all behind to observe the burdens laid upon his people.

But he didn’t only observe — he acted.

When he saw an Egyptian hurting a Jew, he acted; when he observed one Jew hurting another, he acted. And then, despite being chased out of the country for defending the underdog, he continued to do take action. While in exile, he noticed complete strangers, not from his people, being oppressed, and he once again stood up to defend them. And in his job as a shepherd he protected every individual sheep.

Remarkably, none of this affected his sense of humility. He felt he wasn’t worthy of leadership – which is why he was.

In the Kabalistic literature, Moshe is known as the “Raya Mehemna” – the “faithful shepherd”; in Talmudic literature he is referred to  as “Moshe Rabbeinu” – “Moshe our teacher”; and in the Biblical literature he is described as “Eved Hashem” – the “servant of G-d.” Indeed, he was all three. Because he was the faithful shepherd serving others, G-d called upon him and he reluctantly accepted out of a sense of “service” to G-d and the Jewish people. And this humble man of action ultimately earned the title “Moshe Rabbeinu” – the leader/teacher par excellence — teaching us for all time what true leadership is all about.

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