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True Leaders

Thursday, 19 December, 2013 - 7:58 am

In the first parsha of the Book of Shemot (“Names”), which is also called Shemot, the Egyptians enslave the Israelites.  The Pharaoh commands the Jewish midwives, Shifra and Puah, to kill all the Jewish boys.  Facing the challenge of exile, they choose to do what G-d wants, and reject the evil dictator's decree.  The Torah says that they and their descendants are rewarded for their loyalty to G-d.

Moses is born to Amram and Yocheved, a Levite family.  Because of the Pharoh’s decree to throw all of the infant boys into the Nile River, Moses’s mother and sister, Miriam, place Moses on the waters of the Nile, tucked safely in a reed basket. The daughter of the Pharaoh, Batya (“Bat-Ya” daughter of G-d; who converts to Judaism), reaches out and draws Moses out of the water.  She immediately sees that he is a Jewish baby but she chooses to live according to her principles and saves him from the unjust edict. Miriam who was watching, offers Batya the hire of her nursing mother, Yocheved, as a nurse-maid for the baby. Batya then raises him as her own son in the palace of the Pharaoh.  

Moses goes out and sees an Egyptian beating Jew and, after a moment of consideration, kills the Egyptian, thereby doing his first act of protecting his people from the enemies outside. On the next day Moses sees two Jews fighting and he intervenes, thereby doing his first act of bringing unity among his own people.

When it was discovered that he had killed the Egyptian, Moses escapes to Midian where he marries and becomes a shepherd. He protects his flock with sensitivity and watchfulness.

Moses sees a burning bush and turns to it. G-d is prepared to redeem the Jewish people and to bring them to their purpose in His plan. At the burning bush, G-d gives Moses his mission to become the leader of the Jewish people, to help save them from the Egyptian exile, to bring them out of bondage, and to go to Mt Sinai to receive the Torah. He is then to guide them in serving G-d on the way to the land of Israel.

Moses, and his brother Aaron, go to the Pharaoh bringing G-d’s message:“Let my people go so that they may serve Me.' Pharaoh is not interested in letting his slaves go free, nor is he interested in meeting a G-d that is beyond nature. The Pharaoh considers himself a god and cannot relate to anything beyond his own will.  He tells Moses and Aaron to ‘mind their own business.’  The Pharaoh is the root of that kind of thinking which is so different than the way that Jews are to think. 

In this parsha we meet true leaders, Shifra and Puah, Miriam, Batya, and Moses.  Each one transcends his egocentricity, rejects the desires of the reigning despot and ignores concerns for individual safety.  Not one of them ‘minds his business,’ which would allow harm to come to his people.

We are now in the final exile. The challenges of exile can bring out the deep inner-identity of who we really are. Certainly, each of us is capable of being a leader in whatever life situation we find ourselves. We are here to live with integrity.  It is our role to make the world a better place. Each of us can ask what G-d wants us to do, and then go beyond our instinctive nature and  desires, in order to act in a way that fulfills our purpose as individuals and as a people.

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