The story of Egypt begins by setting the scene of a nation oppressed and enslaved. The story then tells Moshe’s backstory, but with terse details.

He interceded when an Egyptian enforcer bullied a Jew, killing him. He interceded when two Jews were fighting each other. He interceded when some local shepherds bullied Yisro’s daughters. The Midrash says that the burning bush event happened when he followed a thirsty lost lamb. These cryptic inclusions are instructive about why he was selected. The common denominator between the stories subtly conveys the qualities a good leader possesses.

The Meshech Chochma notes that in all these incidents, Moshe demonstrated his care to for the weak, and his willingness to intervene in other people’s problems. Moshe was someone who would risk himself to take action for another.

The burning bush story says the reasons he could be a leader:

וירא ה’ כי סר לראות ויקרא אליו אלוקים מתוך הסנה – Hashem saw that he had turned to look, and God called to him from within the thorn bush. (3:4)

This is the very first time God speaks to him. This is when Moshe receives his mission. Moshe would need to become the ultimate leader. The quality he had was that he could “turn and look” – כי סר לראות.

Moshe was a natural helper, a complete giver, he wanted nothing for himself in return. Protecting the weak and helpless, with genuine self-sacrifice is the defining quality of a great leader. This is the type of person the Jews needed to take them from the depths of slavery to the apex of greatness.

A true leader must be ready to sacrifice everything for his people.

What could change in your circles if you lead a bit more?

The books of the Torah transition into each other, beginning new phases in the Jewish people’s development.

The book of Shemos is known as Sefer HaGeula – the Book of Redemption, or Exodus, named for how the Jewish people achieved liberty and independence, culminating in Sinai. But only the first quarter addresses this. The remainder addresses the Mishkan and its requirement.

What does the Mishkan have to do with redemption the book is named after?

The Ramban explains that the book measures the full spectrum of redemption. Redemption of the body is incomplete without redemption of the soul. The nation only had a purpose once the Torah was given a home among the community, and the community could carry the Torah into their lives.

The conclusion of Bereishis concludes with the same theme.

The Ksav Sofer explains that Yaakov descendants bless their children to be like Efraim and Menashe, who were excellent Jews worthy of being considered as if they were Yakov’s own, while simultaneously aiding Yosef with the administration of Egypt’s government.

The story of Bereishis ends in the rise of the Jew in both spiritual and earthly pursuits on a personal level, and the story of Shemos extends that to the national scale.

The Torah does not introduce us to Moshe as an adult, ready to save the Jewish people. The Torah tells us of his birth and adoption by the Egyptian royal family.

Moshe’s childhood contains subtle descriptions of his nature that resulted in his eventual leadership. It is clear throughout that although brought up in the palace, he was aware that he was a Jew:

וַיְהִי בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם וַיִּגְדַּל מֹשֶׁה וַיֵּצֵא אֶל אֶחָיו וַיַּרְא בְּסִבְלֹתָם וַיַּרְא אִישׁ מִצְרִי מַכֶּה אִישׁ עִבְרִי מֵאֶחָיו – It came to pass in those days. Moshe grew up, and went out to his brothers and saw their burdens. He saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man of his brothers (2:11).

He recognised the slaves as his brothers, which distressed him. His kin were suffering, but he was a prince of Egypt!

When he came across an Egyptian bully abusing a Jew, it was too much to ignore:

וַיִּפֶן כֹּה וָכֹה וַיַּרְא כִּי אֵין אִישׁ וַיַּךְ אֶת הַמִּצְרִי וַיִּטְמְנֵהוּ בַּחוֹל – He looked this way and that way, and saw that there was no-one; he attacked the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (2:12)

He made the decision to stand with his people and killed the Egyptian. An outlaw, he committed a crime against the people and land that had raised and nurtured him.

R’ Nathan Lopez Cardozo explains how this pasuk is also true of Moshe’s internal conflict. He was a walking contradiction; Egyptian and Jew, yet neither as well! He looked within, this way and that way, and saw that there was no-one. So he left the Egyptian inside him in the sand, rejecting Egyptian culture and values.

This all fits into the picture we have of Moshe before he became a leader. He was someone who would put his neck on the line for others.

That’s leadership takes.