Now Moses was the shepherd for the sheep of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian". (Ex. 3:1) Rabbi Hiya began by saying: "A Psalm of David, G‑d is my shepherd; I shall not want". (Psalms 23:1) "G‑d is my shepherd" means "the shepherd of mine." In the same way that a shepherd leads his sheep and brings them to a good pasture, to a fat pasture, to a place of a stream of water, He straightens their path with righteousness and Justice [so they don’t bump into each other and harm themselves and don’t eat from other farmers pastures]. So too, of G‑d it is written, "He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul" [by leading me to scenarios in my life that enable me to rectify the mistakes of previous reincarnations and so reconnect my soul to its original spiritual light.]

The way of the shepherd is to lead his flock with righteousness...

Rabbi Yosi said: The way of the shepherd is to lead his flock with righteousness, to distance them from stealing, to lead them on a plain, and at all times the rod is in his hand so that they do not turn off right or left. So does G‑d do. He herds Israel, leading them on a plain, with the rod constantly in His hand, so they will not turn right or left. [The rod represents the suffering a person goes through that causes introspection and improved behaviour.]

Another explanation of: "Now Moses kept the flock:" Rabbi Yosi said: Know that as long as the shepherd is skillful in managing his sheep, he is ready to accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. [and has obtained the skills necessary to shepherd the Nation of Israel.] If the shepherd is a simpleton, it is said of him: "There is more hope of a fool than of him". (Proverbs 26:12) Rabbi Yehuda said: Moses was wise and knowledgeable in leading his flock. Come and see: we learn this from David [about whom it was said at the time when Samuel wanted to anoint him as king], "And he is tending the sheep", (I Samuel 16:11) which teaches us that he was very wise and tended his sheep properly and appropriately. G‑d therefore made him king over all of Israel.

And why sheep and not cows? Because the children of Israel are named sheep, as written: "But you my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men", (Ezekiel 34:31) and, "Like the flock of sacrifices, like the flock of Jerusalem". (Ezekiel 36:38) As one attains life in the World to Come due to the sheep when they are offered upon the altar, he who leads the children of Israel properly attains, due to them, life in the World to Come.

Furthermore, he who herds the sheep takes the lambs to his bosom when the ewes give birth, so that they will not tire and be fatigued, and the shepherd carries them after their mothers, and pities them. So should the leader of the children of Israel lead them mercifully and without cruelty. And thus did Moses say, "That You should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom'". (Numbers 11:12)

...the leader of Israel, if he is good, saves them from the heathen and the Judgment of Below and of Above...

As a good shepherd saves the sheep from the wolves and lions, the leader of Israel, if he is good, saves them from the heathen and the Judgment of below and of above, and guides them into the life of the World to Come. Moses was such a faithful shepherd, and G‑d saw that he was worthy of shepherding Israel, using the same principles that he used to tend to the sheep, the lambs according to their needs and to the females according to their needs. It is therefore written: "Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law" (Ex. 3:1) and not his own. Rabbi Yosi said: As he gave Moses his daughter Tziporah to wife, did he not give him cows and sheep, for Jethro was rich? But Moses did not tend to his own sheep, lest one would say that since his flock was with him, he tended to them well. Therefore, it says, "The flock of Jethro his father-in-law" and not his own. "The priest of Midian": Rabbi Tanchum said: Though he was an idolater, since he was kind to him, he tended to his flock properly, in a good, fatty and rich pasture.

BeRahamim LeHayyim: Many of our biblical heroes were Shepherds: Jacob, Moses, and David, among the most famous. The Zohar here explains how the qualities of a good shepherd could carry over to leading our people. And we are taken to the most famous Psalm of all, Psalm 23: "G‑d is my Shepherd, I shall not want."

Oh, if we would depend on G‑d as a sheep to his master! If we could trust G‑d to take care of all our necessities, to surrender all of our difficulties to us, what would that mean? See, truly, all is in the hands of G‑d, save our fear of Him. To really know deep inside that Gam zu letovah/ this too is for the good, that we accept whatever comes our path with conviction that it is meant to be. The most high of us demonstrate this simple and complete faith, and it would behoove us to do what we can to aspire to move more in their general direction.


Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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