The wife of one of New York's distinguished Rabbis came to the Rebbe one Sunday to receive a dollar for charity. The Rebbe greeted her warmly, saying: "It's so nice to see you. You have not been here for a while. But that's the way it is with really precious things. You see them only from time to time."
Each person is truly precious, possessing gifts that no one else has. A true leader appreciates those gifts and gives each person the tools to develop them.
When speaking of G-d's first revelation to Moses, the miracle of the burning bush, the Torah tells us: "An angel of G-d appeared to him in a fiery flame from the bush. He saw - behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Moses thought, 'I will turn aside now and look at this great sight.'... G-d saw that he turned aside to see and G-d called to him."
Why did Moses merit G-d's call? Because "he turned aside to see." We all see awesome sights from time to time, for everything from a leaf turning in the wind to the geopolitical movements of nations is governed by Divine providence. Often, that providence is overt enough that were we to pay attention to it, we would be overawed. But what happens all too frequently? We hurry by without giving it a second glance.
We have our own concerns to which we attach much importance, so much so that they serve as blinders preventing us from seeing anything else. We expect the familiar pattern of our lives to continue and that expectation governs the way we look at the world.
We don't anticipate or look forward to any major changes. On the contrary, we are comfortable with yesterday and we expect that today will be just like it. This mindset prevents us from realizing how different today really is.
Moses also had concerns and familiar patterns. Nevertheless, he had the sensitivity to "turn aside to see." When he saw something awesome, he was prepared to let that realization overwhelm him. This is what G-d was looking for.
Too often, a leader is too busy, too preoccupied. He does not show the mental flexibility to appreciate what a person has to offer or what a situation can bring. He has a plan and that plan must be executed come what may.
A "Moses" can stop. He is prepared to change his game plan. He is not so fixed in his way of thinking that he cannot learn something new.
This lesson from the Written Torah is reinforced by an insight from the Oral Tradition. The Midrash asks: "Why did Moses go to the mountain where he saw the burning bush?" and answers that he was pursuing a runaway lamb. As shepherd of Jethro's flocks, he took responsibility not only for the herd as a whole, but for every individual sheep. When he saw that a lamb was missing, he pursued it.
This lamb led him to the burning bush.
This was not an accidental sequence. G-d was seeking a leader for His people. He wanted someone who would be concerned not only with the collective, but with every individual, one who would care for the people's personal needs. And so He tested Moses.
Unquestionably, every individual has to make sacrifices for society as a whole, but these should be made willingly, not forced upon him. What to ask of a person and how to ask - or more precisely how to create an environment where the person offers without asking - are a leader's challenge. G-d was looking for a leader who would not make these choices callously, but would think of every individual as that person would think of his or her self. And so, when Moses chased after the lamb, G-d showed him the burning bush.
Our Torah reading also teaches us how the message of Redemption was conveyed to the Jewish people. G-d revealed Himself to Moses and told him to inform the Jewish people that the Redemption was coming. Moses conveyed the message to the people, giving them the vision to look beyond their hard labor and see a future. When the people joined together, believing in Moses' message, G-d worked miracles that enabled them to leave Egypt.
The Zohar, the fundamental text of Jewish mysticism, tells us that in every generation there is "the extension of Moses," a Torah giant whose visionary leadership empowers the Jewish people to look beyond their horizons.
Our Rabbis tell us that Moses and echad, "one," together are numerically equivalent to Mashiach. For when the Jews join together to listen to the message that the Moses of their generation tells them, Mashiach's coming will no longer be a dream of the future.