Moses was brought up in palace with all his needs taken care of, yet despite this, when leaving the palace, Moses had the ability to empathise with others. His choice to identify with his brethren who were superficially, so different from himself, is an essential quality of leadership. When seeing an Egyptian taskmaster striking a Jewish slave, instead of turning away, he took action against the injustice and felt an obligation to change the situation. He killed the taskmaster and took his first step towards leadership and accountability.
Moses identified with his people, at the cost of his own comfortable life of assimilation. Once we realise that we are all the same, we can choose to fight injustice and stand up for those weaker than ourselves. In this way, we can begin to understand how to become leaders amongst men.
We are given the task of representing G-d to the world by our exemplary lifestyle.
“We are a light unto the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6)
Moses gives us an example of how we should fight for others less fortunate than ourselves and it is no different in todays society. Looking around, we can see inequality and unethical practices. The question we have to ask, is where we can make a difference?
Moses’ qualities made him uniquely suited to the role of leadership. We each have these characteristics within us and if we choose to realise our own ability to make a difference, this will help us achieve our own leadership potential. While bosses choose to stand aside in the job, leaders take initiative, making adjustments where necessary and aiding team members. They choose to be a part of the team rather than bossing the team around.
In life, we are in charge, we choose how to interpret, react and respond to situations around us. By using empathy and compassion we can put ourselves in someones else’s situation and decide how we are going to relate to them. If we treat our colleagues or subordinates as real people with real lives, if we can relate to others less fortunate than ourselves and use their experience to fuel our sense of responsibility, then we can become a trigger for change.
In going out to his people, Moses exhibited an essential attribute, the trait of humility. Moses was raised as a son of the palace with all the power of Pharaoh behind him. Yet at that pivotal moment, he chose to identify with the slaves. He stood amongst his brethren and realised that he is no different from them.
Jewish Law repeatedly teaches us that we have to act with the highest ethics in order to bring honour to G-d name, by doing Kiddush Hashem. By choosing to act, we ourselves can be leaders. The defining characteristic of a leader is responsibility. Someone who is willing to act because a job needs to be done. In Egyptian times, that person was Moses.
We doubt ourselves and whether we have the ability to make a difference, whether we are good enough to lead and take a stand. I would like to remind you that Moses too, was not perfect, he was inexperienced and sheltered by his upbringing in the palace. He stuttered when he spoke, but in the end he chose to speak. He took the responsibility of fighting for a people who needed his help. We too can make that choice. We can choose responsibility, we can look around and take up the fight against inequality and help people who need us.
At Pesach, when we commemorate our own freedom, now more than ever, we ourselves have to choose and embrace this commitment. We are all blessed with the ability to contribute, to guide, to lead, and to support. Look around, who needs our help? How can we help? Freedom, equal rights, for everyone.
Let’s make it happen.