The Measure of Greatness

January 4, 2015

We find ourselves in this week Torah Portion in need of a leader for the Jewish people. And we meet Moses for the first time. What makes a good leader? 

 

A smooth talker? Not Moses. He was a stutterer.

 

Someone with Big Ideas? Moses was known for his "little ideas." He was careful and scrupulous about the little things. Moses was a shepherd and cared about the little needs of his sheep, and that is one of the reasons why he was chosen.

 

The Jewish leadership model is profound. Our sages tell us that the measure of greatness is a person's ability to care about the little things.

 

When someone wants to convert to Judaism, a Jewish court will try to persuade him against the decision. First, he is told of all of the difficult mitzvos that he will have to keep, and then about the easier things to do in Judaism. Why the easy things? Isn't the purpose to discourage the convert?

 

Because sometimes the easy tasks, the ones that don't feel important or ennobling, are the hardest to do. When a person accomplishes "great things" it often comes with a lot of publicity or feelings of importance. The smaller tasks lack that, but from a Torah persective are invaluable. A great person understands the need to take care of little things and  to be aware of the small needs of the people around them. That was Moses. He really cared about every person and their smallest needs.

 

There is a story of a great Rabbi, Rabbi Abramsky, who was walking along the streets of Jerusalem with his students discussing important and scholarly questions in the Talmud. Along the way he was stopped by a young girl of 5 who was crying. The rabbi went down to her level and asked, "What is the matter?" "My friends just told me that hey don't like my dress," she replied in tears. "Please tell your friends that I told you that your dress is beautiful." And with that the little girl marched back reassured. A true leader cares about people and all their "little things" too.

 

It takes greatness to notice and care about the "little" feelings of others. 

-Adapted from R' Zvi Teitelbaum of Mesorah DC

 

 

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