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The Making of a Leader

Shmot (Exodus 1:1-6:1 )

by Eitiel Goldwicht

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn three stories about the first Jewish leader, Moshe Rabeinu. They are simple in nature, relatable to children, yet with profound messages that we can understand as we mature. When Moshe goes out to his brothers and he sees an Egyptian hitting a Jew, he steps in and strikes the Egyptian and saves the Jewish slave. The next day he goes out again and he sees two Jews fighting. Again, he steps in to stop them from fighting. The third account of Moshe stepping in to save others is when he runs away to Midyan and meets the daughters of Yitro. There too, when the shepherds came and drove them away, Moshe rescued them and watered their flocks.

We read these three accounts and understand that they are not just here to tell us about Moshe Rabbeinu’s young adult life, but to teach us why Moshe was chosen as the leader of the Jewish people. We understand from his bravery and assertiveness that Jewish leadership is not about being charismatic, a great orator or being rich, it’s about taking action when you see an issue that needs to be addressed.

We look around the world today and it’s clear there is a rise in anti-Semitism in the both US and Europe. What are we doing about it? There’s division amongst Jews around the world and in Israel, what are we doing about that? There is hunger, crime, and many other global issues that need to be addressed. Are we involved? Taking a stand?

The first story of Moshe witnessing the incident of the Egyptian hitting a Jew, symbolizes the issue of antisemitism, when Jews are attacked by non-Jews. Are we willing to open our eyes to see it, and are willing to take a stand like Moshe Rabbeinu?

The second account represents division and internal fighting amongst Jews. When Jews fight with one another, do we ignore it? We may not want to get involved, telling ourselves it's not my issue. Perhaps we should step in to try to stop the fighting?

Lastly, the incident with the daughters of Yitro in Midyan is a conflict between non- Jews, representing issues the world faces due to a lack of moral values. We might think it's none of our business, let them fight amongst themselves. Let there be starvation in Africa, and terrible war crimes in Syria, it’s not our issue. But Jewish wisdom is teaching us here real leadership means stepping up and taking a stand, even when the issue seems further removed from home.

To be a Jewish leader means to be committed to take action. First to stop and think about the issues facing the world and the Jewish people. To think about how we can unite Jews from different backgrounds and then to take responsibility and make an impact.

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