Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that prophecy requires certain inherent characteristics. The prophet must be strong, wise and independent. “Only in a healthy, (un)weakened body does the mind attain that clarity that can draw from the well of the Torah that wisdom . . . . and the self-confidence and independence.” The Midrash further develops his character by relating that, although Moshe grew up in the royal palace and became second-in-command, he did not become self-indulgent. Instead, he went out every day to see his brothers and joined them in their back-breaking work. He interceded with Pharaoh by suggesting that they could increase the efficiency of the slaves by allowing them to rest one day a week. Pharaoh agreed and Moshe ordered the Jews to rest every Shabbat.
Before Moshe could merit speaking to God from the burning bush and demonstrate his worthiness for the mantle of leadership and prophesy, he had to exhibit the additional character traits of honesty, spirituality, compassion and patience. Thus, the story of the burning bush begins by telling us that Moshe became a shepherd for his father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro), following the examples set by the forefathers, all of whom were all shepherds. Allegorically, this seems to be a prerequisite to become the “Shepherd of Israel.” Rashi explains the phrase, “Vayinhag et hatzon achar hamidbar.” (“He led the flock to the edge of the wilderness” Shemot 3:1). The phrase indicates that he distanced himself from dishonesty. In order not to graze on grass from another’s field, Moshe went to a pasture beyond the desert which was ownerless in order to (according to the Seforno) commune and pray. The Midrash relates the famous story of the kid that ran away from the flock to drink from the cool stream. Moshe hadn’t realized that the kid was so thirsty but understood that it was exhausted from running. He placed the kid on his shoulders and carried it back to the flock.
The Yalkut Meam Loez explains that taking pity on a small animal – with no one watching – was a sign of great patience. To lead a people, one must have patience to endure their burdens, to treat every person as an individual and to pray for the people when they do wrong. Moshe Rabbeinu exhibited these characteristics before he could merit being a prophet and leader.
From the Torah to Your Table
“The yichus (pedigree) of Moshe is not even recorded,” says Dayan M. Swift in the compendium, Moreshet Moshe. “Who cares who his father was? At a time of life and death, every son and daughter of Israel must rise to the occasion and assume the height of responsibility,; a ‘schneider’s’ son or a Rav’s son . . . . Israel’s teacher emerges from the home of an everyday Jewish father or mother.”
Discuss this statement that one must always be prepared to rise to the highest level of yiddishkeit based on his/her own efforts and not rely on family name or standing.
Candle Lighting Times
and Torah Portions
Friday, January 4
Light candles at 4:38 p.m.
Saturday, January 5
Torah Portion: Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)
Friday, January 11
Light candles at 4:44 p.m.
Saturday, January 12
Torah Portion: Vaera (Exodus 6:2-9:35)
Friday, January 18
Light candles at 4:50 p.m.
Saturday, January 19
Torah Portion: Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)
Friday, January 25
Light candles at 4:57 p.m.
Saturday, January 26
Torah Portion: Beshalah