Do you have ambition? When you were younger, were you striving to reach a goal; a job that would lead you to success in life?
Everyone dreams of being successful. Some are happy on a small scale, but most would like to reach the top – wherever that is!
G-d works in mysterious ways, but there are signs along the path to success.
The Torah introduces us with much excitement to the birth of Moshe Rabenu. Although all the Hebrew newborn babies are being sent to their death by drowning in the River Nile, Moshe Rabenu miraculously survives and is looked after by his sister from afar and eventually by his mother from nearby.
Pharaoh at that time had no idea what was to become of this baby.
We are left in no doubt that G-d runs the path of life – as we see with our own eyes, the Hebrew leader growing up under the eyes of Pharaoh.
Eventually, as a young man, Moshe comes across a fellow Hebrew being struck by an Egyptian man. At that time he felt his allegiance with the oppressed Hebrew and defended him: “He looked from side to side and saw that there was no man” – seemingly no one was watching, so he struck the Egyptian who died.
The following day, Moshe found himself confronted by two Hebrews quarrelling. Amidst his efforts to calm the situation, he was accused of planning to slay one of them just as he had slain the Egyptian.
Our Sages are confused – how is it possible that Moshe could be accused of having slain someone when he had clearly ascertained that there was no ‘man’ in sight?
I will explain with a beautiful idea I once heard.
A Jewish stranger once visited a town. He saw another Jew walking and approached him. “Can I ask you a question?” he asked.
“Not now! I am late for synagogue”, replied the man, as he turned, running towards a large building at the end of the street.
The stranger was actually quite happy with the response – you see, all he wanted to ask the person was; “where was the town synagogue?”
He followed the man and prayed. At the end of the prayer he approached the man and said to him,
“ I have a question to ask you.”
This time the person replied, “Sure, go ahead!”
“The Torah tells us that when Yosef at the age of 17 was sent by his father to find his brothers, he found an ISH – ‘a man’ – on the road. Our Sages explain that this ISH was Gavriel the angel, who proceeded to help Yosef find his way to the brothers.
How do the Sages know that this ISH was Gavriel? In fact, elsewhere, the Torah calls Eisav’s angel ISH!
So how come in one place, the word ISH is translated by our sages to mean Gavriel, and in the other it means the arch enemy angel of Eisav??
The person looked on, astounded by such a great question.
“I have no idea!” he said.
“Let me explain”, continued the stranger, “with the saintly explanation of Rabbi of Tsanz the Divrei Chaim.
“When the angel of Eisav fought Yakov the whole night, at the end Yakov asked the angel for a blessing.
Do you know what his response was?
The angel responded, ‘I don’t have time to give you – it is dawn and I need to sing in front of G-d at this time – leave me alone. Get out of here so I can go back to synagogue.’
If that’s the answer you receive from a stranger, be assured he is a bad angel!
But when Yosef was lost, he came across an ISH and that ISH asked him, ‘how can I help?’
Such a person is a good angel – hence our sages state it was Gavriel!”
Needless to say, the person understood the stranger’s powerful message.
To be a ‘good man’ means to be caring.
When Moshe came out and saw that the Egyptian master was oppressing the Hebrew slave, he himself was hurt and could not look on. He searched left and right, to see if there was any man around.
The Netziv offers a fantastic insight. There were in fact people around when Moshe saw the Egyptian striking the Hebrew, but the Torah is emphasising that nobody was interested in doing anything about it.
Hence when the Torah states “he saw there was no man” – it means he realised that no one was up to the task of helping this poor slave.
The word ISH – ‘man’ –refers to a man of worth, of moral fibre; a man who seeks to right something which he believes to be wrong – in this case, to stand up for injustice.
It is to this fact that Hillel teaches that: “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” (Pirkei Avot, 2:5).
At a time when others just looked on, Moshe was ready to act. Through his actions he showed his caring and eventually leadership capabilities.
Moshe Rabenu, through his small actions, was now bringing out the credentials of his future leadership.
Success is a process; it requires commitment, clarity and set goals. But more importantly, the Torah teaches us a special secret – big jobs usually go to the men who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.