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A True Hero for All

Friday, 18 January, 2013 - 10:00 am

The Twitterverse has been ablaze with talk of the Lennay Kekua hoax. A college-football star, Manti Te’o, had a girlfriend that was claimed to have suffered injuries in a car accident and later died from complications from leukemia. The story played out in the media as one of the great inspirations of the year… until it was discovered that she never existed. Her existence was pure fiction – a hoax of monstrous proportions. Many questions remain, most notably who knew what and when. Was Manti duped? Was he part of the hoax? Who is the real hero and who is the real villain?

While people seek answers, it jolts us into thinking about the people we idolize, admire or “follow.” Are they, in their real lives, the heroes that we truly wish to emulate? Do they exist in the way we believe or have we simply molded them into something that fits our perception, hopes and dreams?

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In this week’s Parsha of Bo the Torah testifies that, “The man Moses was highly esteemed in the eyes of Pharaoh's servants and in the eyes of the people.” It should come as no surprise that Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people and facilitator of the plagues in Egypt, was well-respected amongst the Jews. In fact, it is also likely that he was held in high esteem by at least some Egyptians.

Here, however, the Torah includes two classes of people who respected Moshe: 1) Pharaoh’s servants and 2) the people. If Moshe was respected by the people would that not include Pharaoh’s servants as well? What is the meaning of the Torah dividing these two groups?

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There are many great leaders who develop strong followings. But usually if they are loved by one class of people, they are despised by others. If they are popular amongst the poor, they are hated by the rich. If they are adored by the masses, they are loathed by the elite.

Few and far between are the leaders who are revered by all. For someone to appeal to all types, s/he must rise above their differences and relate to something deeper than an agenda or a sensation.

Such was the greatness of Moshe. He was the epitome of true leadership. He did not seek power or honor. He sought to serve every person as the most powerful channel of G-d’s will.

And that’s why he was such an effective leader, finding favor among Jews and gentiles; among aristocrats and commoners. This appeal says more about what Moshe accomplished than his leadership style. It is the capacity of such leaders to unify people and help them achieve their own dreams. It is this quality that translates into freedom, nationhood and holiness. This is the landscape upon which the Torah entered the world.

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This Monday, the 10th of Shevat, marks the date over sixty years ago, when the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn of righteous memory, ascended to the leadership of the Chabad movement. At the time Chabad was a Chassidic group of modest numbers. Over the last six decades it has been transformed into the fastest-growing and most ubiquitous Jewish movement in the world.

Make no mistake. This was not due to the Rebbe’s charisma. This was not due to the Rebbe’s sagacity.

The Rebbe’s relevance in and mark on the Jewish world and the world at large (no other Jewish leader in history has been embraced and followed by so many non-Jews) is simply because the Rebbe followed in the unique footsteps of Moshe. The Rebbe’s unwavering commitment and care for each person is what singles him out.

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We may never fill the shoes of Moshe or the Rebbe. Yet, we can certainly focus more on caring for each person.

Doing so will eliminate phony heroes in our minds and hearts and bring the world to a time of true peace and unity, with the coming of Moshiach. Then the real dreams of Moshe, the Rebbe and all of us will be truly realized.

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