Was Moses That Great? Connecting Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers with Parsha Shemot (Class Notes)

Parshah Shemot: What Makes Moses So Special, Anyway?

Prepared by Patrick Aleph – [email protected]  – www.punktorah.org

There has never since arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face (Deut. 34:10 – JPS 1918, translated by Patrick)

If Moses were running for president, would you vote for him?

Murderer: He went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he [killed] the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. (Exodus 2:11-12)

Low Self Esteem: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should take the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). “Behold they will not believe me, and they will not heed my voice, but they will say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’ ” (Exodus 4:1)

Speech Disorder: “I am not a man of words, neither from yesterday nor from the day before yesterday, nor from the time You have spoken to Your servant, for I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10, Chabad.org)

Moses is also described by the Torah as being weaker than all men on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3), quick to anger (Exodus 32:9), imprudent (Psalm 106:33), often unwilling to do God’s work (Numbers 20:11, Exodus 4:24) and suffered from public bouts of depression (Parsha Yitro, Beshalach).

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell identified the characteristics that lead individuals to high levels of success. What were these factors for Moses success?

 A man of the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son [Moses] (Exodus 2:1-2)

And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her [Moses mother]: ‘Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages.’ And the woman took the child, and nursed it. And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son (Exodus 2:8-10) 

Moses was content to dwell with the [Midianite Priest]; and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bore a son (Exodus 2:21-22). Moses, when tending Jethro’s flock in the wilderness, proved himself a tender shepherd. He was not above carrying a little lamb, becoming footsore in its search for water, on his shoulder back to the flock. God said, ‘This tender shepherd of man’s flock shall be the shepherd of my own flock.'(Exod. Rabba 2) 

He said: ‘Is there not Aaron thy brother the Levite? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee; and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people; and it shall come to pass, that he shall be to thee a mouth, and thou shalt be to him in God’s stead. (Exodus 4:14-16) 

Moses was not a great man on his own. He was great because he had a caring mother, was raised in the best circumstances possible, married into a good family and had the support of others who loved him.

Enjoyed this archived service or article? Click here to donate $3 to OneShul (care of PunkTorah).

Support OneShul on GoFundMe

Leave a Reply