A True Leader by Moshe Rapps


Moshe Rabbeinu was a great leader and role model.  He had fantastic leadership skills, such as being able to speak his mind and solve problems.  But where did Moshe develop these skills?  When Moshe was three months old, he was placed on the Nile in a basket and was recovered by Bat Paroh.  When she recognized that he was a Jewish boy, she shockingly went against her father’s royal decree and raised Moshe as her own child.  However, Bat Paroh’s actions are puzzling. Why did she disobey her father and raise a Jewish boy?  The Baal Haturim quotes the Gemara in Masechet Sota, which states that the reason Bat Paroh was in the water in the first place was that she was in the process of converting to Judaism, thereby explaining her sympathetic attitude toward Moshe. 

The Ibn Ezra ponders the question of why Moshe had to grow up in Paroh’s house.  We would think that the greatest Jewish leader of all time would be raised in a Jewish home surrounded by Jewish influences and culture.  The Ibn Ezra explains that Moshe had to be raised in a house of royalty to be able to acquire the leadership skills he would need, so that he could eventually become the leader of Bnai Yisrael.  Had Moshe grown up as a Jewish slave, he would not have acquired the skills or the self-confidence that he would need in order to face Paroh and lead Bnai Yisrael out of Egypt.   By growing up in a royal house, Moshe was free from the slave mentality from which the rest of Bnai Yisrael suffered.  Also, if Bnai Yisrael recognized Moshe as a fellow slave, they would not have given him the proper respect when he became their leader.  Finally, the former position that Moshe held in Paroh’s house gained him admission into Paroh’s court and made him a legitimate person to deal with.  Perhaps it was his royal upbringing that gave Moshe the courage to act as he did when he went out into the world.

In addition to leading Bnai Yisrael, there were also three important incidents that took place in Moshe’s life. First, Moshe saw an Egyptian beating a Jew, which angered Moshe so much that he struck and killed the Egyptian.  Then Moshe came across two Jews who were fighting and consequently he reprimanded the one who hit the other.  After running to Midyan, Moshe chased away a group of shepherds who were harassing Tzipora and her sisters.  In all of Moshe’s actions, he showed the key characteristic of a true leader: the willingness to act purely for the sake of justice and righteousness.  Nechama Leibowitz points out that all three of these episodes are necessary to describe Moshe’s personality.  Had we only known of the first incident, we might have thought that Moshe acted as he did because he was so overwhelmed to see an Egyptian taking advantage of a Jew.  If we only had the second episode, with the two Jews fighting, we might think that Moshe stopped the fight because he could not tolerate seeing two fellow Jews fighting.  But in the third episode, where both sides were strangers, Moshe still did the right thing by chasing away the harassers.  Only at this point is Moshe ready to be called upon to lead Bnai Yisrael out of Mitzrayim.

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