If we were to turn to the Torah for a biography of the great
Jewish leader, Moshe Rabbeinu, we would be sorely disappointed.
We read a little about the birth of Moshe, one or two incidents
from his life and the next thing we know, Moshe is eighty years
old and Hashem is speaking to him from the sneh or burning
bush. The purpose of Torah, however, is not to teach us history,
but to teach us life. We are given exactly those facts, which are
needed to build a profile of the man who would lead the Jewish people
out of Mitzrayim (Egypt) and bring them the Torah from Hashem.
We therefore have to carefully consider each detail provided to
us, for it is those details, and what they tell us about Moshe that
were significant enough in the eyes of Hashem to cause Him to choose
Moshe as the one to lead the Jewish people.
The Torah tells us about Moshes background in a rather
unusual way. Instead of telling us whom Moshes parents were
the Torah first writes "And a man went forth from the House
of Levi and took the daughter of Levi" and only
later tell us their names. There are several reasons given for this.
Some suggest that the Torah wants us to know that, as great as Moshe
was, he was a human being born of both a father and a mother.
Jewish leaders are not to be deified and are not to be worshipped.
Rather they are to serve as an inspiration to each and every one
of us as to how great a person can become if he devotes his life
to the service of Hashem.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch offers an alternative explanation
for the initial anonymity of Moshes parents. The Torah wants
to emphasize one single fact that the future leader of the
Jewish people was from the Tribe of Levi on both his mothers
and his fathers sides. Levi had a quality that Moshe would
need. When Yaakov blessed his sons, he referred to Shimon and Levi
as achim brothers. In the words of Rav Hirsch, they
"had the feeling of communal brotherhood developed to a high
degree, which, completely free of egoism, made them feel affected
by any wrong done to the least important member of the family circle,
as if it had been done to themselves." It was this feeling
of oneness with the rest of the Jewish people that Moshe would inherit
from his grandfather Levi.
We can see this trait manifested in the few incidents from
Moshes life that the Torah reveals to us before Hashem spoke
to him. Vayetze el echav vaya'ar b'sivlosam. Moshe the young
prince left the comfort of the palace to observe the plight of his
brethren. The Midrash adds that he actually helped them with their
slave labor. He then risks his life by killing an Egyptian who is
beating a Jew. It is this same sense of responsibility that, one
day later, leads him to rebuke a Jew who raised his hand against
his brother in anger.
The Torah is teaching us a great deal about the qualifications
of Jewish leadership. Moshe was chosen not only because he was such
a great oved Hashem. He also had to care passionately about
every one of his people. Their pain was his pain. Their concerns
were his concerns. This quality of Levi would stand by him throughout
the forty difficult years he would spend leading Klal Yisrael.
And so it has been throughout our history. The mark of a
gadol bYisroel (a Jewish leader) is not only his scholarship
or his meticulousness in Mitzvos. He is always someone completely
dedicated to the Klal or community. His time is not his own.
He is completely identified with the needs of the Klal as
a whole and of each Jew in particular. In a sense, every Jewish
leader has to be a Levi at least in spirit.
Thursday, January 15, 1998