Against the background of a worldwide vacuum in leadership today, the figure of Moses who brought Israel out of Egypt seems more relevant than ever. What made the great prophet, the hero of the Passover holiday, so prominent in the pages of history? What special leadership ability did he have?
In terms of leadership ability, there was nothing overtly special about Moses. He was anything but eloquent, he wasn’t a born leader and often failed to understand the Creator whose message he was carrying. With his apparent lack of success, anyone else would have given up long before, but not Moses. He had the quality that we would love to see in today’s leaders: true, unselfish love for his people.
Throughout history, there have been many people who have known how to handle things well, and manage others according to their selfish aspirations, but they have not necessarily been considered great leaders. Sophistication, cunning, and other slick qualities, all of these are not required in a true leader.
A leader is really first and foremost an educator. Moses certainly did that, he educated his people toward loving one another and helped them connect above their egoism, their innate desires for self-benefit. The Hebrews united around Mount Sinai, which not coincidentally takes its name from the Hebrew word “sinah” (hate). They did not destroy the mountain of hatred between them, but sent the most pristine element in their midst, Moses, to climb the mountain, conquer it, and bring down a law (Torah) by which they would be able to establish love among them.
But the Torah is not a Hollywood script. It speaks of the spiritual development within a person and the constant struggle between the forces of egoism and the forces of brotherhood and unity within us. This is explained in The Book of Zohar with the line, “Man is a small world.” So when it is written in the Torah (Exodus 6:2) about Moses that the spirit of the Lord spoke in Pharaoh’s daughter to call him Moshe (Moses) from the word “moshech” (pulling), it is because he is the one who pulls Israel from exile, pulls them out of Egypt, meaning out of the egoism that was destroying the relations between them.
Today we feel the period of the darkness of Egypt starting once again, but it is general and global. We already clearly see that the entire world is tightly interconnected, most recently with the impact of the pandemic and with the repercussions of the war in Ukraine to the economies and food supplies worldwide.
We need to face the darkness and also understand what it is showing us. It is meant to bring all of humanity closer to redemption. We need to stop pretending this state of darkness has not descended on all of us. We cannot ignore it or merely hope it will go away. It is important to recognize it and understand that the darkness is the sign of a new bright state.
But we need some help to use this warning purposefully and achieve the desired results. We should be led by the attributes of Moses’ leadership as expressed in the form of a pan-social educational system. We need a system that will allow each of us to understand that the root of all of our problems, at home and abroad, is the ego that brings separation and that wars between us only make all of our lives bitter and bring only more troubles upon us everywhere in the world. We need the leadership that will teach us to transcend all disagreements, and will teach us how, despite all the differences, to connect with each other.
Conversely, if we disrespect and harm one another, more blows like the ones of Egypt will certainly be revealed. This means that everything depends on us now. If we understand like a child who sees the look on his parents; faces and interprets the warning, and improves his behavior in response, then there will be no need for more blows. Instead, we will build bridges of love over hatred.