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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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What does it take to be a leader? If you’ve been following any recent political campaign, you would not be wrong to assume that charisma, a smooth tongue and an impressive appearance are the only qualifications necessary. But what did people look for before the advent of television, which brought the candidates up close into our living rooms?

Ideally speaking, we would choose a leader based on character, intelligence, depth, ideas. We’d be looking for honesty, sincerity, compassion and humility. But today these qualities not only do not help win public office, they may even detract. We are used to examining our leaders under a microscope and have a cynical view of anyone who attempts to climb the political ladder. The biggest prizes are reserved for the greatest tacticians and manipulators.

Moses, the prototype of a successful leader, liberated a nation of 600,000 people from a land that had never released a single slave. He led these newly freed slaves through the desert for 40 years, while contending with opponents and detractors from both within and without. To accomplish all this, he must have had uncommon bravery, strength and people skills.

The question is, where did he get his astonishing leadership ability? A glib tongue he definitely did not have; Moses had a speech impairment. An impressive appearance? Charisma? Perhaps he had these qualities, but how would they have helped him accomplish his amazing feats?

The one quality that Moses had, which made him exceptional, was his humility. “And Moses was exceedingly humble, more than any other man on the face of this earth.” Moses knew that G-d had chosen him for this role, and he subsumed himself entirely in it. He had no self-interest, no ego of his own; he was there only to fulfill G-d’s will. And that is why, when necessary, Moses was able to display incredible power and resolve without ever becoming arrogant; he knew the source of his strength.

This week, on Thursday, the 7th of Adar, was the day of Moses’ birth as well as his passing. And it is interesting to note that this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, is the only one in which Moses is addressed but not mentioned by name. This, too, marks his tremendous humility; when G-d threatened to destroy the Jewish people, Moses said, “Forgive these people, please. And if not, erase me from this book.” Although G-d did indeed forgive the Jews, he still carried out Moses’ threat to some degree, by removing his name from one Torah portion.

*In every generation there is a leader like Moses, who shows uncommon strength in the face of opposition and adversity. This upcoming week we will celebrate Purim, the miracle of which came about in the merit of two Jewish heroes, Mordechai and Esther, who refused to be subdued by the intimidation of Haman or Achashverosh. They proudly asserted their Jewishness even in the most troubled times.

In our generation as well, we have been fortunate to have an outstanding leader of the same caliber. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, led the Jewish people for over 40 years and created a renaissance in Jewish life as we have never before seen in history. The Rebbe continues to lead us, through his voluminous teachings, his many emissaries, as well as through the strength that he continues to inspire in all of us. In the merit of our great Jewish leaders we will push ourselves just that last short distance until we see the complete Redemption.


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