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The Faithful Shepherd

Friday, 4 January, 2013 - 1:00 pm

In this week’s Parsha of Shemot we are introduced to Moshe (Moses), considered the greatest Jewish leader. But which qualities in particular illustrate the hallmark of leadership? Great leaders are known for their oratory skills (Moshe had none) or grassroots appeal (the Jews complained about Moshe’s intervention). If he was not popular and apparently lacked charisma, what leadership qualities did he possess?

Students of the Torah will surely point out that he was very pious and humble and therefore merited to have the quintessential relationship with our Creator. But how does that demonstrate his leadership skills?

The Zohar states that Moshe is referred to as the raaya meheimna of Israel, the faithful shepherd. A famous anecdote in the Midrash tells of Moshe’s care and concern for a solitary lamb that had wandered from the flock. When Moshe went to great lengths to retrieve it the Almighty said, “You are merciful in tending sheep – you will tend My flock, the people of Israel.” In this sense, raaya meheimna means that Moshe was faithful to the Jewish people. His dedication is unparalleled.

However, there is a deeper understanding of the mystical work’s statement. The term raaya meheimna can also be translated as “a shepherd of faith,” meaning one who feeds faith to others. Moshe was not only loyal to the Jewish people; he provided them with spiritual sustenance – with the tools to serve G-d.

In fact, the Zohar teaches that each generation has such a leader. A Moshe-esque shepherd is granted to the Jewish people to bolster our spiritual capacity.

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On Sunday, 24 Tevet, we will mark the 200th anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the Alter Rebbe. Rabbi Schneur Zalman was the founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement and is most well-known for his remarkable work, Tanya.

The Alter Rebbe was a remarkable leader – brilliant in scholarship and piety; acclaimed in loving-kindness and self-sacrifice.

But his truest contribution to Jewish life – one that lives on today as well – is being a raaya meheimna. The dimensions of Torah that he lay bare in his groundbreaking teachings have served countless Jews with spiritual awakening.

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Great leaders like Moshe and Rabbi Schneur Zalman do not disappear when they pass on from this world. Their souls, as well as their lessons, continue today.

Miracles? Receiving the Torah? Talking to G-d? That’s the easy stuff.

Instilling faith in the Jewish people? Now, that’s real leadership.

The leadership is readily available. The question remains, will we be followers?

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