Judaism: Forming a People and Its Leader
Moshe KempinskiMoshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.
King Solomon offers a different view ;
The twists, turns and travails of that river of history may be a function of the decisions of mortal men but the ultimate destination is not. In the end even the choices of a leader seems to be divinely ordained;
In the Torah portion of Shemot (Exodus) we begin to see the formation of a people. Yet concurrent with this we discern the formation of its leader, Moses.
“And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying: 'Every son that is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.”( Exodus 1:22)
It is at this very difficult time that we read of a marriage and birth. There is an immediate sense of something new and dramatic happening: “And the woman conceived, and bore a son; and when she saw him that he was good , she hid him three months."( ibid 2:2)
The baby’s mother ,Yocheved ,was able to discern with the prophetic eyes that G-d always affords mothers , that a great illuminating light would come forth from this young infant. His future life would impact the world and illuminate the darkness. She realized that she could not hide him any longer so she placed him a wicker basket, called a teivah in Hebrew. (Exodus 2:3).)
After being adopted by Pharoah’s daughter, but raised by his natural mother, we then read of the young Moses;
The author of the HaEmeq Davar writes that the verse does not say "he did not see any man" but rather "he saw there was no man." He looked around and saw people, but there was no one that could or would stand up for justice. There was no one to stand up as a man. All around the area were oppressors and oppressed, and amongst the oppressed were many that would be revealed as traitors.
This answer shocked and surprised Moses. "…Moses was frightened and he thought, ‘Indeed the matter is known.’"(ibid 2:14). The deeper understanding of the words “the matter is known” was an answer to a question that may have perplexed Moses. If Moses wondered as Rashi implies, what kept this people in bondage for so long, "Indeed the matter (was now) known."Moses then gives up on this people. He believed that they did not have what it takes to recapture freedom. He then in fact runs away at the age of twenty and is not heard from again until the age of eighty. Sixty years of silence, disappointment and loss.
"An angel of HaShem appeared to him in a flame of fire from within the thorn bush, and behold, the thorn bush was burning with fire, but the thorn bush was not being consumed. So Moses said, "Let me turn now and see this great spectacle why does the thorn bush not burn up?" HaShem saw that he had turned to see, and God called to him from within the thorn bush, and He said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am!"( Exodus 3:2-4)
There is, then, great significance to the words "Hashem saw that he had turned to see, ". G-d clearly was waiting for that determined choice of Moses to step into his destiny. After that choice and only after that choice, G-d began to talk to him. Moses had passed the test of leadership. It is probably true that most people would have been intrigued by this supernatural phenomenon. Yet Moses knew that if he wanted to continue the state of anonymity he had adopted for over sixty years, he needed to ignore what he saw.
It is at this point that Moses begins the process of being the leader that we was destined to become. Yet he could not have done that if he did not take a determined step into that role. There would be many more tests and many more steps but Moses was seizing the opportunity to be a vessel in the plan of his people's history. That was a decision that he had to make.