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Shmot 5771

Shmot (Exodus 1:1-6:1 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! What are the qualities that make a leader?

This week we start the Book of Exodus which includes the story of Moshe (Moses), a paradigm of a Jewish leader. The Torah tells us that Pharaoh wanted to kill all of the Jewish newborn boys. His astrologers told him that a redeemer of the Jewish people was being born. However, Amram and Yocheved, Moshe's parents, hid him as long as they could. They then placed him in a waterproofed basket in the Nile where he was found by Pharaoh's daughter. Moshe was brought up in the Pharaoh's palace.

The Torah tells us that after Moshe grew up, he went out to observe the burdens of his brethren. He saw an Egyptian man beating a Hebrew, "looked this way and that way to see if there was a man," and then struck down the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-12).

From here we learn basic principles of being a leader: (1) A leader must go out amongst the people to see firsthand the situation. (2) A leader must recognize that there is a problem. (3) A leader must look to see if there is anyone else who is dealing with the problem. If someone is already taking action, then support and assist the person - don't vie for glory of being the hero. (4) If there is no one taking action, then one must take action.

There is a common misconception that ability leads to leadership. In truth, caring and taking responsibility leads to leadership.

Queen Esther is an example of this. Married to King Ahasuerus who didn't know that she was Jewish, she is approached by her uncle Mordechai to intercede with the King on behalf of the Jewish people. She hesitates. Mordechai tells her that if she doesn't intercede, deliverance will come from another source while she and her father's house will perish (Megillat Esther 4:12-14). Esther asks for people to fast, do teshuva (repentance) and pray. She takes the responsibility ... and succeeds.

If one accepts the responsibility, the Almighty will ensure that the person will get what he or she needs to succeed.

People tend to focus on their weaknesses and use them as excuses for not taking responsibility. Moshe had a speech impediment. It didn't stop him. The Almighty had his brother Aharon join with him. He succeeded.

Charles Harary (coming soon: - one of the great educators and speakers of our generation who is often featured in's One Minute Movies - speaks of 3 prerequisites for leadership:

1) Compassion - a leader must truly care and want to help. The Almighty tested all of the Patriarchs as shepherds to test and train them for leadership. The midrashim, allegorical commentaries to the Torah, tell of Moshe going to great lengths to find a lost lamb and carrying it back to the flock because it was weak.

2) A Commitment To Truth - it is about doing what is right, not what looks good or will keep you in power. It is about serving the people, not about having the position.

3) Ready to Stand Against the Whole World - for what's right. Avraham was the first monotheist and stood firmly in opposition to all of the idol worshippers. Moshe stood against Pharaoh. King David stood against Goliath.

Aharon, Moshe's brother, had two sons, Nadav and Avihu, who brought up an unauthorized incense offering at the dedication of the Portable Sanctuary in the desert - and died. Aharon said to Moshe, "They were more righteous than we." Another midrash says that Nadav and Avihu would walk behind Moshe and Aharon and ask, "When will these old men die that we can be leaders?" Were they really righteous or were they wicked? Rabbi Noah Weinberg taught that they were really righteous - just that they made the mistake of thinking that responsibility comes with the position of leadership. Responsibility, however, comes when you see the problem. Nadav and Avihu saw problems facing the Jewish people and had ideas for solutions. They should have gone to Moshe and Aharon and asked, "Do you see these problems? What can be done?" And, if appropriate, presented their own ideas for consideration. Responsibility comes not just with leadership, but when you see the problem!

For more on "Leadership" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

This week's portion tells a story often repeated throughout history: The Jews become prominent and numerous. There arises a new king in Egypt "who did not know Joseph" (meaning he chose not to know Joseph or recognize any debt of gratitude). He proclaims slavery for the Jewish people "lest they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving (us) from the land." (Anti-Semitism can thrive on any excuse; it need not be logical or real - check out our online seminar "Why the Jews?" at - the seminar will transform the way you view yourself, your people and your history. It's spectacular!)

Moshe (Moses) is born and immediately hidden because of the decree to kill all male Jewish babies. Moses is saved by Pharaoh's daughter, grows up in the royal household, goes out to see the plight of his fellow Jews. He kills an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, escapes to Midian when the deed becomes known, becomes a shepherd, and then is commanded by God at the Burning Bush to "bring My people out of Egypt." Moses returns to Egypt, confronts Pharaoh who refuses to give permission for the Israelites to leave. And then God says, "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh!"

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And the officers of the Children of Israel, whom the taskmasters of Pharaoh had set over them, were beaten ... " (Exodus 5:14).

Why were they beaten and what lesson for life do we learn from it?

These officers were Israelites. They had pity on their fellow Israelites and did not force them to fill their quotas. When the officers handed over bricks to the Egyptian taskmasters, the taskmasters beat them for not having pressed the workers to fill their quotas.

The Chofetz Chaim writes that leaders very often take unfair advantage of the people under them. The just mode of behavior, however, is never to act condescendingly to others, even if you are elevated to a rank above them.

Arrogance is a trait which is strictly forbidden. According to some authorities the prohibition against arrogance is listed among the 613 commandments of the Torah. We should learn from the officers of the Children of Israel who not only did not take unfair advantage of those under them, but who even suffered physical pain to aid them.


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In Memory of
Our Brother


  Sheldon & Alan Becher  


In Memory of
My Father

Menashe Edward Erani

With love, Chuck Erani



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