shavuot, the holiday celebrating the children of israel’s receipt of the torah, would likely be celebrated differently today if not for moses’ great act of leadership. greatness often requires growth as an individual. a person on the first day of their job is much different than the person ten years later. an individual’s willingness and commitment, over time, can lead to improvement and perhaps greatness.
moses’ story is of a leader who perhaps had the most spectacular growth in history.
his beginning as a leader could not have gone worse. it is written in exodus 2:11-14 “now it came to pass in those days that moses grew up and went out to his brothers and looked at their burdens, and he saw an egyptian man striking a hebrew man of his brothers. he turned this way and that way, and he saw that there was no man; so he struck the egyptian and hid him in the sand. he went out on the second day, and behold, two hebrew men were quarreling, and he said to the wicked one, “why are you going to strike your friend?” and he retorted, “who made you a man, a prince, and a judge over us? do you plan to slay me as you have slain the egyptian?” moses became frightened and said, “indeed, the matter has become known!”
out of the gate, moses exhibited a failure in his ability to communicate on multiple levels. while he was someone from palace royalty, he could not use his words to stop the taskmaster. instead, he resorted to violence. while speaking to the hebrew men, he spoke in a manner that challenged their morality when he personally lacked any moral authority. in the end, he was wanted for murder and had to flee his country to avoid the pharoah’s wrath.
after leaving egypt, moses grew. he interceded on behalf of jethro’s daughters at the well. he learned to herd and did so for an extended period of time. tasked by god, he went and delivered the hebrew slaves from egypt. he experienced the need for correct messaging to both the slaves and to the pharaoh. he acted as messenger, with the assistance of aaron, during the stressful dealing of the ten plagues. he led the slaves out of egypt and parted the red sea courtesy of the master of the universe.
moses, arguably greatest moment, however, was yet to come. moses’ encounter with the master of the universe during the receipt of the first set of the ten commandments was his greatest moment of leadership that is worthy of remembering on shavuot.
exodus 32:7-14, notes “and the lord said to moses: “go, descend, for your people that you have brought up from the land of egypt have acted corruptly. they have quickly turned away from the path that i have commanded them; they have made themselves a molten calf! and they have prostrated themselves before it, slaughtered sacrifices to it, and said: ‘these are your gods, o Israel, who have brought you up from the land of egypt.’ “and the lord said to moses: “i have seen this people and behold! they are a stiff necked people. now leave me alone, and my anger will be kindled against them so that i will annihilate them, and i will make you into a great nation.” moses pleaded before the lord, his god, and said: “why, o lord, should your anger be kindled against your people whom you have brought up from the land of egypt with great power and with a strong hand? why should the egyptians say: ‘he brought them out with evil [intent] to kill them in the mountains and to annihilate them from upon the face of the earth’? retreat from the heat of your anger and reconsider the evil [intended] for your people. remember abraham, isaac, and israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your very self, and to whom you said: ‘i will multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens, and all this land which i said that i would give to your seed, they shall keep it as their possession forever.’ ” the lord [then] reconsidered the evil He had said He would do to His people.”
moses, in this moment, had the opportunity to abandon the people that he had saved, and start a new covenant with god. instead, in the tradition of abraham, he had the courage to plea to god and raise valid arguments to convince the creator of the universe to change course. moses, in that moment, accepted the responsibility of bringing the children of israel onto the ways of the lord. he took on the role of molding a “stiff necked” people. this successful encounter would have have occurred in a young moses. rather, his knowledge, experience, and dedication allowed him to brilliantly perform as a leader. he grew from incapable to successful over time.
as we know, after this encounter, he continued his leadership in a “smashing” fashion. upon decending mt. sinai, after that episode, he took the original ten commandments and….you know the rest.
has leadership growth changed over time? in the modern world, technology has increased the world’s pace. communications are faster and more prolific. music has comes with greater tempo. movies are packed full of non-stop action. one must wonder if our ability to grow as leaders has increased commensurate with technology? or, had technology impacted leadership growth in a negative fashion? over a few decades, social media, i.e. facebook, twitter, and tiktok, are now playing a role in governance. have technology and social media, are assisted or prevented leaders’ opportunity leaders to grow? feel free to comment on this issue.
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