July 18, 2024
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One of the salient qualities of great leaders is their intolerance for injustice.

The gap between how the world ideally ought to be and how it is in reality causes them great distress. They cannot sit idly by when they encounter unfairness; they simply have to get up and do something about it. We see an incredible example of this quality regarding arguably the greatest leader of all, Moshe Rabbeinu. His heightened sensitivity to injustice is the very quality the Torah specifically highlights at the dawn of his transition to adulthood and lays the foundation for his leadership role.

The Torah presents in this week’s parsha three examples of Moshe Rabbeinu’s great sensitivity to the plight and suffering of others. These cases clearly reveal three different and interrelated stages in the development of this critical quality.

We see, first and foremost, that Moshe sees the plight of his brethren, as the Torah puts it, when he goes out to his people and sees an Egyptian taskmaster grievously harming a fellow Jew. He notices that this is the norm and that no one cares to do anything about this blatant immoral act and the potentially fatal blows of the Egyptian taskmaster. He acts intuitively and immediately gets up and does something about it and strikes down the cruel perpetrator.

As noble and courageous as this act was, one could argue that the reason he did this was out of a sense of ethnic belonging to his people, a camaraderie with the suffering of his own people at the hand of others—not more. Hence the next case.

The following event involves two Jews fighting among themselves and he can’t tolerate this either; why should two Jews be fighting? He acts to try and rectify. This does not involve an attack on his brethren, no ethnic superiority over others, but rather a care for infighting among his own. This, though, is still among his own; does he care for others and feel the same sense of injustice when it is distant from his own people? Hence the next event in the life of Moshe that the Torah portrays.

The third injustice occurs when he flees to Midyan and sees Yitro’s daughters being mistreated by local shepherds. Now he is distant from both his own people and from Egypt where he grew up. He has no national, ethnic or personal connection to the Midyanites yet Moshe springs into action to fend for the victim. This is a squabble between unknown Midianites yet he displays the same sense of justice. Moshe’s deep sense of rectifying wrongs is universal. Whether it is done to his people, among his people or among others, a wrong is a wrong and the cry of an innocent victim at the hands of an aggressive perpetrator must be heard and acted upon.

Here is the great Moshe Rabbeinu, teaching us a remarkable quality of a leader: a deep sensitivity in all situations to the agony of unjust pain and suffering. A leader must feel it, be highly sensitive to its cries for help and aspire to do something about it.

May we all, in our spheres of influence—on a personal, communal, national and societal level—follow the towering example of Moshe Rabbeinu to bring empathy where there is suffering, healing where there is pain, action where there is apathy, justice where there is injustice. To do all we can to heal a fractured world.


Rabbi Doron Perez is the executive chairman of World Mizrachi.

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