The Leadership of the Faithful Shepherd

Parsha and its fulfillment - Parashat Vaera - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald- 5769

The events of the past week require us to re-examine fundamental issues, including the significance of leadership in the light of Jewish sources.

The beginning of our Parasha is the continuation of the previous Parasha. After the enslavement became stronger Moshe Rabbeinu appeared before G-d and cried out, “O Lord, why did You bring harm upon this people? Why did You send me? (Shemot 5:22). "And if You ask, What concern is that of yours?” I answer "I have to complain that You have sent me at all” (Rashi -Exodus Rabbah 5:22).                                                                                                       Moshe, as the leader of the nation, aches the nation's pain and speaks harshly to G-d, as questioning G-d's attributes. Hashem, resents Moshe's harsh statement: "You have criticised My methods of guiding the world, etc." (Rashi, 6:1).

For years, I was asked to lecture cadets and IDF officers about "Leadership in light of Jewish sources." One of the chapters dealt with the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Moshe Rabbeinu is the first leader of the Jewish people, and his leadership is supposed to serve as the role model of true leadership in the Jewish people. Primacy is always a kind of breakthrough and paves the way for others to follow. We have analyzed in depth the beginning of this wonderful leadership, the well-known Midrash about his election as a leader following his behavior as a shepherd:

"... Our teachers have said: Once, while Moshe our Teacher was tending [his father-in-law] Yitro’s sheep, one of the sheep ran away. Moshe ran after it until it reached a small, shaded place. There, the lamb came across a pool and began to drink. As Moshe approached the lamb, he said, “I did not know you ran away because you were thirsty. You are so exhausted!” He then put the lamb on his shoulders and carried him back. The Holy One said, “Since you tend the sheep of human beings with such overwhelming love - by your life, I swear you shall be the shepherd of My sheep, Israel.” (Shmot Rabbah 2:2).

Therefore, Moshe Rabbeinu was called רעיא מהימנא (הרועה נאמן) - the faithful shepherd.

However, in another Midrash it is explained that Moshe's test of leadership was at the time when he was a "prince" and heir to the house of Pharaoh. When he went to see the sufferings of his people. Moshe showed caring and responsibility for the fate of his people and was prepared to pay the price of losing the personal royal status in order to save a Hebrew man from the hands of an Egyptian:

"The Holy One Blessed is He said: You left aside your business and went to see the sorrow of Israel and acted toward them as brothers act. I will leave aside the upper and the lower [i.e. ignore the distinction between Heaven and Earth] and talk to you. Such is it written, " And when the L-rd saw that [Moshe] turned aside to look" (Shmot 3:4). "The Holy One Blessed is He saw Moshe, who left aside his business to see their burdens. Therefore, "G-d called unto him out of the midst of the bush" (Shmot Rabbah 1:27).

The discovery of responsibility and caring and the willingness to pay a personal price is a supreme test of adequacy for leadership. Nevertheless, when G-d commanded him to lead the people of Israel, he runs away from power: " But Moshe said to G-d, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?” (Shmot 3:11)

He is not looking for a career as a leader but was forced by the Divine command to take the yoke of leadership.

The leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu is like that of a person who represents his audience with absolute loyalty to his position without any trace of personal interest. Moshe had to deal with the people and with the elders and with the heads of the tribes even when they confronted him and challenged him. Even when the people of Israel did not make his life easy and did not respect him. He did not abandon the ship during a crisis and fought for his people.

In our lecture we wanted to distinguish between a 'leader' and a 'public emissary'.

A 'public emissary' is a function of representing the public and its needs, in a genuine way, and acts tirelessly for it.

'Leader' is a level above the public messenger. The public sees him, kind of, an exemplary figure with a vision that preserves his path. Anyone who sees the needs of the public before his eyes. Not his own needs and not the realization of his personal ambitions. A leader is one whose considerations and methods of leadership make the public trust him and follow him.

The test of leadership is when the public follows him even when he is required to deal with demanding challenges and with crises, and even when the public is forced to follow a path that has a price that needs to be payed.

Such a leader prepares the model that will follow with the implementation of his vision forward and continuity. And when the time comes, when his mission comes to an end, he hands him the leadership's headquarters.

This was the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu. And we have to learn from it today.

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