Before he became a leader of Israel, Moses was a shepherd. The Midrash tells how one day, while Moses was shepherding Jethros flocks in the Sinai Wilderness, a kid ran away from the flock. Moses chased after it, until it came to a spring and began to drink. When Moses reached the kid he cried: "Oh, I did not know that you were thirsty!" He cradled the runaway kid in his arms and carried it to the flock. Said the Almighty: "You are merciful in tending sheepyou will tend My flock, the people of Israel."

In addition to demonstrating Moses compassion, the incident contains another important lesson: Moses realized that the kid did not run away from the flock out of malice or wickednessit was merely thirsty.

When a Jew alienates himself from his people, G‑d forbid, it is only because he is thirsty. His soul thirsts for meaning in life, but the waters of Torah have eluded him. So he wanders about in foreign domains, seeking to quench his thirst.

When Moses understood this, he was able to become a leader of Israel. Only a shepherd who hastens not to judge the runaway kid, who is sensitive to the causes of its desertion, can mercifully lift it into his arms and bring it back home.

Freely adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.