Moshe – He’s A Boss
Oh people, look around you
The signs are everywhere
You’ve left it for somebody, other than you
To be the one to care
This week we begin the second of the Five Books of Moses – the book of Shemot/Exodus. We are introduced to the most pivotal and important man in Jewish history, and arguably all of world history, Moshe/Moses.
We are told very little about the early years of Moshe’s life other than the narrative of how he was put into a basket as an infant and sent down the Nile. He was collected by Pharaoh’s daughter who then raised him in the palace.
The Torah’s narration about Moshe begins in earnest when he explores his Hebrew roots as “he goes out to his brothers to witness their burdens.” He did not have to do this and could have easily avoided the whole messy situation if he remained in the comfy confines of Pharaoh’s palace. But he doesn’t and instead ventures out to see his impoverished and abused brothers and sisters.
The road is filled with homeless souls
Every woman child and man
Who have no idea where they will go
Whilst investigating, he observes an Egyptian taskmaster viscously beating a Jew and immediately springs into action. Right then and there he kills the Egyptian and saves the life of the victimized slave.
The next day he again mingles among the slaves and he comes across two Jews arguing with one another (so what else is new?). As one readies to strike the other, Moshe steps forward and again intervenes. However this time his efforts are thwarted when the perpetrator questions his meddling and asks, “Who appointed you as a judge and ruler over us? Are you going to kill me the way you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”
Well, now that it’s been posted on facebook, Moshe realizes that he’d better get outta’ Dodge since killing an Egyptian to save a Hebrew slave is akin to killing a Nazi in Germany to save a Jew.
He flees to Midian where he comes across Jethro’s daughters being hassled as they attempt to draw water from the local well. Again Moshe jumps into the fray and drives away the tormenters. He then provides water to the flocks of the damsels in distress.
It has been quite a busy season for our superhero, jumping into so many different conflicts wherever he goes. The curious thing, however, is that the Torah elsewhere characterizes Moshe as being exceedingly humble. The most humble of all men in fact. Humble? … I am not so sure if most people would define this sort of aggressive and even violent behavior as humble.
When one thinks of humility, the image of a small, quiet, unassuming and self-effacing individual comes to mind. A humble person is someone who tries to avoid conflicts at all costs, not insinuate themselves into the middle of them. A humble person will readily give in and act passively in most situations not actively try to correct them – with force if necessary. “Humble” certainly does not seem to be the appropriate description of a man who repeatedly confronts evil-doers and is even willing to take the life of another when he deems it necessary to do so.
Aish HaTorah’s founder, Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l used to remark that Moshe exemplifies the true definition of humility. A humble person is one who realizes that while he may not be significant in the larger scheme of things, Truth, Righteousness and Goodness certainly are and are paramount. The humble man does not view himself as a zero who has no contribution to what is noble and great, but someone who ensures that he not allow his ego nor his pettiness to get in the way of achieving those loftier values. The humble person realizes that s/he is not the goal, but Truth and Morality are and will do any and everything to achieve those goals.
As a general rule, people can lose their sense of real humility in one of two opposite ways: Either they think of themselves as too small to make a difference. Or they deem themselves to be too great and important thus allowing their inflated egos to become an obstacle in making the world a better place. Both the one who sees himself as too small or the one who overinflates his ego are equally ineffective as they each, in their own way, not live up to the true definition of humility.
Moshe didn’t care about his position among the Egyptian monarchy and how it may be jeopardized if he makes waves to right the wrongs of his adopted nation and society. He could have easily decided not to get involved in the injustices around him and lived happily ever after in the opulence of Pharaoh’s palace. Buts he throws all of this aside, ignores it all, because he is aware that justice and morality are supreme and he must do whatever he can to fight for it. Whatever personal consequences may ensue are not a consideration and completely irrelevant in his eyes. In Moshe’s mind, he doesn’t count, only the greater good does and no self-esteem or ego issues can be allowed to get in the way of that.
It is quite ironic that only when one totally forgets themselves – their needs, their fears, their wish for legitimacy in the eyes of the community, their sense of “But what will people think of me?” – only then can one finally actualize their true and full potential that is latent in being truly humble. A real humble person is one who never puts his own agenda or needs ahead of the greater good.
If we live our lives with real humility then greatness awaits us. A greatness and leadership similar to that of Moshe, the greatest and most humble person of all time. Humility and Greatness – two qualities that go hand in hand.
Oh people, look among you
It’s there your hope must lie…
We all must do the best we can