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FEELING SHEEPISH

by Benyamin Cohen    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Many times, one can tell a lot about somebody by the occupation they hold. Before becoming leader of the Jewish people, Moses tended to his father-in-law's sheep. Why was Moses, the future redeemer of the entire Jewish people, a meager shepherd?

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Many times, one can tell a lot about somebody by the occupation they hold. Before becoming leader of the Jewish people, Moses tended to his father-in-law's sheep. Why was Moses, the future redeemer of the entire Jewish people, a meager shepherd?

On the surface, a simple answer would suffice. Shepherds have a lot of free time on their hands which fosters thinking and introspection. By being a shepherd, Moses could come to grips with himself, his family, and his mission in life.

Many commentators explain further that Moses' vocation instilled in him certain positive character traits. We find that he has developed compassion, almost respect, for inferior beings. Rashi, the fundamental Torah commentator, relates that while tending to the flock one day, a little sheep ran astray. Moses felt bad that it was not with the rest of the sheep drinking at a nearby stream, so he picked up the animal and carried it over to the water. Hashem saw this and realized that if this was the way Moses treated animals, then, all the more so, would he be the proper person to take care of Hashem's sheep, the Children of Israel.

We see a similar characteristic in Rebeccah at the beginning of the book of Genesis. When Abraham's servant, Eliezer, was searching for a wife for Isaac, he went to Charan to find a suitable woman. When he arrived there, Rebeccah not only offered him water, but also gave water to his camels.

In human relationships, we unfortunately find three general ways that people interact. First, there is a person and his superior. In this kind of relationship, one tries to constantly impress the superior in an effort to gain approval. Second, there is a person and his equal. Basically, this is an "I'll do you a favor if you do me a favor" type of relationship. Third, there is a person and his inferior. A natural response would be to treat the inferior in a derogatory manner.

Moses went against the normal tendency and was nice to the sheep. It was this important character trait that made Moses the great leader he was. He needed to know how to treat all walks of life with proper respect. Moses was going to become a leader. He was going to tend to the Children of Israel and lead them out of Egypt. He was going to be the shepherd of his flock.

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Benyamin Cohen, a native Atlantan and alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta and Georgia State, is editor of Torah from Dixie

You are invited to read more Parshat Shmot articles.

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