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Moses the Leader

Moses the Leader

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Published by MustardSeedNews
The first segment of the Book of Exodus, tells the story of the enslavement -- and the beginning of the liberation -- of the Israelites in Egypt.
There are many traditions regarding the nature of the Hebrew community at the time, but the general picture that emerges is of a people who had strayed from the path of their forefathers...
The first segment of the Book of Exodus, tells the story of the enslavement -- and the beginning of the liberation -- of the Israelites in Egypt.
There are many traditions regarding the nature of the Hebrew community at the time, but the general picture that emerges is of a people who had strayed from the path of their forefathers...

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Published by: MustardSeedNews on Nov 21, 2009
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03/18/2011

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 1
MOSES:MOSES:MOSES:MOSES:
 
The Emergenceof a Leader
 
MOSES BY MICHAELANGELO
T
his week's Torah portion, the first segment of the Book of Exodus, tells the story of theenslavement -- and the beginning of the liberation -- of the Jews in Egypt.There are many traditions regarding the nature of the Jewish community at the time, but the general  picture that emerges is of a people who had strayed from the path of their forefathers.
 
 2
O
ur Sages teach us that even circumcision had been abandoned, and Moses had to force it upon the population prior to the exodus.At the same time, we are told that there were some aspects of tradition which remained intact -- namely, the Jewsretained distinct dress, names, and language.It is fascinating to note that Moses himself -- the savior, if you will -- seems to be deficient in these areas.* * *
THE NAME OF MOSES
 Moses was born into a family from the tribe of Levi. At that time there was an edict that all newborn males bethrown into the Nile River. Moses was found as a baby by the daughter of Pharaoh, floating in a
teva
or "ark." Sheadopted him and named him; thus Moses was not his Hebrew name.And the child grew, and was brought to the daughter of Pharaoh, he became a son to her, she named him Moses,and she said (explained) "for from the water he was drawn out." [Exodus 2:10]When the daughter of Pharaoh named Moses what was she trying to communicate?In order to understand the depth of her action, we must first understand who this woman was, and, for that matter who her father was. In the Book of Ezekiel the following passage appears:Speak and communicate, thus says God, "Behold I am against you Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great crocodile thatcrouches in the midst of the streams who says the (Nile) River is mine, for I created it." [Ezekiel 29:3]Pharaoh believed that he was god of the Nile, that he created the Nile. This insight allows us to understand why thechildren were thrown into the Nile. When the midwives refused to kill the newborn males, Pharaoh suggested thatthey throw the babies into the water instead. In effect he said, "cast the children into the Nile, and the god of the Nile shall decide who will live and who will die", as if the midwives would not be performing the act of murder.This will also give us insight into the first plague -- "blood." Turning the Nile into blood was an act of war, perceived by the Egyptians as if someone had stabbed their god. Not only did Pharaoh think that he was god of the Nile, but he named his daughter Btya, "daughter of god.""And these are the children of Btya, daughter of Pharaoh" [Divri Hayamim I 4:18, also see "Kala Rabbati" 3:23,Vayikra Rabba 1:3]This was the woman who saved, and named, Moses. Her father was "god of the Nile" she was daughter of "god",and she pulled a son out of the Nile, and named him Moses.* * *
SON OF THE NILE
 Btya, in naming Moses, was making a claim which had theological meaning as well as political implications. Shewas claiming that the Nile had given birth to her son.
 
 3Of course, she knew rationally, that one of the Hebrews had in fact given birth to Moses, but we must recall thatcasting the children into the Nile was not seen as murder, rather as some type of judgment.Moses emerged from the Nile alive, which had theological significance for Btya. He was therefore declared "son of the Nile." She is obviously positioning him to become the next Pharaoh, or at least to take his place among the pantheon of Egyptian gods.Therefore we see that not only does Moses have an Egyptian name, but his name is steeped with idolatrousconnotations. How ironic that the savior of the Jews should be seen as a god by the Egyptians.This insight also gives us a greater appreciation of Moses, for we now understand what is was like for him to leavethe palace to "seek out his brothers."When Moses interceded and killed the Egyptian, he was in effect rejecting the entire way of life that was laid outfor him. Moses' heroic act -- which has it's spiritual antecedent in the behavior of his great-grandfather Levi -- wasan act of self-sacrifice for the sake of a fellow Jew.By killing the Egyptian, Moses forfeited his role in Egyptian society; he would no longer be seen as a god, but onlyas a Jew, and his chances of one day ascending the throne disappeared.This self-sacrifice was the first step toward assuming the mantle of leadership of the Jews, but of course suchconsiderations were quite foreign to Moses.* * *
THE DRESS OF MOSES
 When Moses escapes Egypt, and he makes his way to Midian, he is described as Ish Mitzri, an "Egyptian man."What was it about Moses that makes him seem Egyptian?Was Moses an Egyptian? Rather, his clothes were Egyptian, but he was a Hebrew. [Midrash Rabba 1:32]The second factor which contributed to the liberation was distinct dress. Here, too Moses is deficient.* * *
THE SPEECH OF MOSES
 The Jews also retained a different language, Hebrew, but here, too, Moses seems lacking. The Torah tells us thatMoses had difficulty with speech:I am not an eloquent man ... but I am slow of speech, and slow of tongue. [Exodus 4:10]Later, Moses describes himself as
v'ani oral sfataim
-- "I whose lips are uncircumcised." [Exodus 6:12 and 6:30] If we take the literal meaning, it emerges that Moses does not feel that he has the right to represent the people becausehis tongue is uncircumcised. In other words, Moses is too Egyptian to represent the Jews.If, indeed, the Jews are saved because they retained these three practices, then Moses seems an unlikely savior.Why is Moses chosen?* * *
THE MODEL OF LEADERSHIP
 

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