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Two Minutes of Torah: Shemot - Reluctance to Lead

Right now, here in America, we are in the midst of the U.S. Presidential primaries and that means a lot of people competing to be their party's nominee for the Presidency.  And there are a lot of people out there who want power; who want to be the leaders and who seem desperate to achieve this position for themselves.  In many cases we might ask what their qualifications are and what sets them apart, or what makes them suitable for the presidency.  But what is clear is that all of them want to be the leader, all of them have some desire for this position. 

It stands in stark contrast to Moses in this week's Torah portion as he assumes his position as the leader of the Israelites.  As we begin Shemot, the second book of Torah, with this first Torah portion we meet Moses.  First as the baby, then in the House of Pharaoh, then as the one standing up for the Hebrews and killing the Egyptian taskmaster.  And then once in the wilderness, working with his father in law Yitro, the priest of Midian, we read about Moses as the shepherd and we read about the encounter that Moses had with God at the burning bush.

God says to Moses: ‘you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt’ (Ex. 3:10), and Moses in response says: ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?’ (Ex. 3:11).  Moses’ first response is reluctance.  And Adonai reassures Moses that God will be with him.  But this is not enough.  Moses continues with his concern; first asking for God's name and then after being told about God's wonders and signs he still says: ‘What if they do not believe me and do not listen to me, but say: Adonai did not appear to you?’ (Ex. 4:1).  To this God shows him how he might throw the stick down.  But Moses is still reluctant.  And he says to God: ‘I am slow of speech and slow of tongue … Please, Adonai, make someone else Your agent’ (Ex. 4:10…13). 

Throughout this encounter it is clear that Moses is reluctant to lead.  God has to reassure Moses several times and then finally tell him that Aaron his brother will go with him and help him in all of this work.  Only then, with the reassurance that Aaron will be with him, with the miracle of the rod that can turn into a snake, is Moses finally willing to go back to his father-in-law Yitro and say to him that I need to go back to Egypt to check in on my people. 

We don't know exactly what made Moses so suitable for being the leader of the Israelites.  But in this week's Torah portion we see that perhaps one of those characteristics was a reluctance to lead.  He didn't want to be the leader for leadership’s sake; he tried to avoid the position.  And only when called upon by God, several times, did he finally accept it. 

Sometimes it feels like all leaders today are only in it for the power, rather than what it means to really be a leader.  It would be good if they could learn a lesson, or two, from Moses.  

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