Warren Buffet would have liked Moshe. Buffet once told a group of business students that if they were good communicators they would be better investments.
Moshe goes from being the guy who says, “Choose someone else” via an ozone-friendly, non-burning bush, to the man who tells his brother what to say to Pharoah, to the leader who speaks to thousands and ultimately, to millions. He writes a best seller and leads a people across a desert by virtue of a vision of what they can become – a vision so powerful, we’ve been trying to embody it ever since. I think Buffet would approve.
In Yitro, this week’s parsha, if you want to learn about public speaking, Moshe wrote the guide book.
Exodus 18:7 So Moses went out toward Jethro, prostrated himself and kissed him, and they greeted one another, and they entered the tent.
Rule no.1. Open with thanks, show appreciation, be humble.
Rule no. 2. Like your audience.
Prostration, kissing and greeting are all good options.
Exodus 18:8 Moses told his father in law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians on account of Israel, [and] all the hardships that had befallen them on the way, and [that] the Lord had saved them.
Rule no. 3. Don’t tell about an idea, tell about one time it happened to you.
Moshe doesn’t memorize a text, he just tells his story. He delivers our delivery as it happened to him. No acting, no artifice, just the reliving of a powerful, moving story. His body, facial expressions and voice would have just come along for the ride.
Rule no. 4. Start strong
Moshe doesn’t mess around; he goes straight to the heart of the story. I’m thinking a personal account of miracles would be pretty impressive.
Rule no. 5. Know your audience.
This meeting is like the first inter-faith dialogue meeting. Unlike the confrontations with others, here Yitro is welcomed and he has come to hear. And Moshe goes straight for his experience of God. He knows that Yitro, the Midianite Priest will get it. And then Yitro does a little active listening to show he’s been paying attention and relays the story back. And then this happens:
Exodus 18:12 Then Moses’ father in law, Jethro, sacrificed burnt offering[s] and [peace] offerings to God, and Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to dine with Moses’ father in law before God.
So powerful is Moshe’s story that Yitro makes a public contribution…and then they have a donor’s dinner. It could be that Moshe asked for it, or maybe not. Either way, I trust that he knew rule no. 6. Know your last line.
As for rule no. 7. Dress well, I trust Moshe had his power gown on at the time.
A little later, Moshe goes up a mountain and returns with a 10 point mission statement.
What a role model! I wish my leaders were less about posturing and more about prostrating. I wish my leaders were more about sharing their best stories rather than deriding others. I wish my leaders came down from their mountains with one set of rules that applied to everyone and gave them hope rather than fear. Now that would really be a story worth telling.