Rabbi Professor David Golinkin, President of The Schechter Institutes, talks about leadership qualities. Moses was not chosen to lead the Jewish people because of his rhetorical skills, his military prowess or his legislative ability. He was chosen only because he was a pursuer of justice.
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Moses our Teacher is considered, and rightly so, as the leader of the Jewish people. The question is: why was Moses chosen to lead the people as opposed to someone else?
If you say, because of his rhetorical skills – he himself says “I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). If you say, because of his prophetic ability (Numbers 12:8), we would reply that that ability was only revealed later on. If you say that he was chosen because of his modesty (Exodus 3:11; 4:13; Numbers 12:3), indeed, that is a good quality, but is that the m a i n attribute of a leader ? If you say, because of his lineage – he was from the tribe of Levi which was cursed by Jacob (Genesis 49:5-7). If you say, because of his military prowess, he only participated in the war against Amalek from afar (Exodus 17:8-13) in order to encourage the troops. If you say that he was a great legislator, all the laws were stated by God, and when a question arose, Moses had to ask God (Leviticus 24:12; Numbers 9:8; 15:34). If you say that Moses was chosen for his compassion, indeed so is he described in the famous midrash about the kid (Exodus Rabbah 2:2) – but that is not the peshat nor is that a sufficient attribute to lead an entire people.
Rather, if we want to know why Moses was chosen to lead the People of Israel, we must carefully examine the first passage describing his activities (Exodus 2: 11-22):
One can’t help noticing that immediately after these three episodes God appears to Moses in the burning bush (Chapter 3). This comes to teach us that Moses was chosen to lead the People of Israel because of his inability to with stand injustice regardless of the identity of those involved. Indeed, this point was already emphasized by the Abarbanel (to Exodus, p. 16), by Ahad Ha’am (Kitvey Ahad Ha’am, p. 344) and by Nehama Leibowitz (Iyunim B’sefer Shemot, p. 35).
Moses our Teacher was not chosen to lead the People of Israel because of his rhetorical skills or his military prowess or his legislative ability, but only because he was a pursuer of justice. This is the type of leadership we must look for when we choose leaders and public figures in the State of Israel.
David Golinkin is President of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and President Emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. For twenty years he served as Chair of the Va’ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly which gives halakhic guidance to the Masorti Movement in Israel. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah at Schechter and also directs the Center for Women in Jewish Law. Rabbi Professor Golinkin made aliyah in 1972, earning a BA in Jewish History and two teaching certificates from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Rabbinics and a PhD in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as Rabbi. For a complete bio click here.