A few days ago, the captain of Liverpool Football Club, Steven Gerard, one of my sporting heroes, announced that at the end of this season he would be leaving the team. At the age of 34, he has made the decision that he needs to go somewhere else to continue his football career. When looking back at his time playing for the team, he broke onto the stage in 1998 at the age of 18 years old. At that point, he wasn’t ready to lead the team. It took several seasons for him to establish himself as a fixture in the side, learning from his mistakes, learning from his experiences so that eventually he could assume the captain’s armband and establish himself as one of the greatest captains Liverpool has ever known.
It’s the same for us in our lives, leadership doesn’t happen naturally, it’s something we learn to do over time. In this week’s torah portion, as we meet Moses for the first time, he is learning how to be a leader. In the first incident in which he he is an active participant, he sees an Egyptian taskmaster oppressing an Israelite slave and so he kills the Egyptian taskmaster. His first response when he sees oppression and suffering is to kill the oppressor. Then, when he goes out again, and he sees two Israelites arguing, this time he talks to them but then flees when they say “are you going to kill us like you did to the Egyptian.” But then we get the third incidence, when waiting by the well he sees Tziporah, and the daughters of Yitro being harassed by the other shepherds, Moses steps up, intervenes, protects them and insures that they can water their flock.
In these 3 incidents, we see that Moses learns from each and every experience what it means to be a leader. In the first instance we could say he maybe acted a bit too rashly in killing the Egyptian. By the second time, he realized that maybe it was time to talk to people first, but by the third time he recognizes there was the need both for force and for words, but not necessarily, ultimate force as was seen during the first incident. Moses learned how to be a leader and while it might still surprise us that the first thing we know of Moses is that he killed someone, through his life experiences, he demonstrates why he is so appropriate as the leader for the Israelite people and God’s chosen person to take us out of Egypt and lead us toward the Promised Land.
Moses is someone who learns from his experiences, learns from his mistakes and then develops, constantly growing. Learning to lead. This week as we meet him for the first time, we see a young Moses, by the end of Torah we will see just how he becomes Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses, our teacher and our Rabbi.