Moses

Shelach Lecha: You Can Quote Me

Great people are not afraid to put their name behind their convictions. “And Calev quieted the people for Moshe and said, ‘We will rise and rise and inherit the land, as we can surely do it’” (13:30). Those of lesser quality prefer to hide behind the cloak of anonymity. “And the people who were with him said, ‘We will not be able to go up’”. It is easy to criticize, complain and condemn; as long as one can hide behind others, it is not “me” but rather “they” who will be blamed should things go wrong. It takes courage to stand up and do the same thing publicly.

Korach: No Unity Without Diversity

It is in times of crisis that effective leadership is most important--and the years spent wandering in the desert represented the first major crisis of the Jewish people. Aimlessly wandering with little to look forward to, knowing that they would die in the desert, the hope and excitement of the Exodus was long gone. It is not surprising that, when faced with a crisis, instead of looking inward, people often look to blame others for their predicament. Who better to blame than one's leader?

Shemot: No Thank You

“And Moshe was frightened and he said, behold the incident is known. And Pharaoh heard about the affair and he sought to kill Moshe” (Shemot 2:14-15). How did Moshe's killing of an Egyptian become public knowledge? Did not Moshe “look this way and that way” and see “that there was no man” (Shemot 2:12)? While it is possible that Moshe simply failed to notice some passing Egyptian, such an interpretation seems highly unlikely. If the Torah tells us that he looked and saw no one, it is most likely that there was no one to see.

V'zot HaBracha: Four Giants

“And Moshe was one hundred and twenty years when he died” (Devarim 34:7). It is a beautiful, if somewhat unrealistic, custom to offer blessings to those celebrating a birthday that they should live to be 120. While this quantity of life is (usually) unrealistic, the blessing to live to 120 relates not only to quantity, but to the quality of life; “his eyesight did not diminish and his strength did not wane” (ibid). 

Eikev: Fear of G-d

Effort vs. result. The relative value of these two concepts is a fundamental dispute between our western worldview and Jewish teachings. The secular world is, as it must be, bottom-line oriented. From a Jewish perspective, it is effort, not result, that ultimately counts. G-d blessed us all with different and varying degrees of talent; thus, it would be unfair to expect similar results from all. Rather, it is the effort we expend on moral improvement, understanding a Torah text, or performing mitzvoth that is crucial.

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