R. Aharon of Karlin was one of the foremost students of the Maggid of Mezritch and a prominent scholar and teacher in his own right. His townsfolk wondered why despite his own greatness, he took the time and effort to travel to Mezritch and accept the Maggid as his master. “What do you get from going to Mezritch,” they asked him.

“Nothing,” he would reply.

After receiving that answer repeatedly, they pressed him for further explanation and he told them: “In Mezritch, I learn that I am nothing.”

For there are two ways to understand nothingness, a) the absence of something, a state of void and lack, or b) a level limited existence that cannot be defined or quantified.

Every Jew possesses this higher dimension of nothingness in their souls. In Mezritch, R. Aharon was saying, he had learned to identify with and internalize this level.

Such awareness is the key to success and achievement, because a person can accomplish most when he goes beyond his individual nature and accepts a yoke to a purpose and a goal above himself.

Parshas Bo

Our Torah reading begins with G‑d sending Moses to Pharaoh to ask him again to release the Jewish people. But rather than begin, Lech el Pharaoh, “Go to Pharaoh,” G‑d tells Moses: Bo el Pharaoh,Come to Pharaoh,” i.e., come with Me. The commentaries explain that Moses hesitated before accepting the mission and agreed to go only after G‑d promised that He would accompany him.

On a simple level, it is explained that Moses was afraid and G‑d’s promise to accompany him assuaged those fears. On a deeper level, however, the unwillingness of Moses to proceed on his own gives us a glimpse of the uniqueness of Moses’ personality and the secret of his success as a leader.

Moses did not want to face Pharaoh on his own, because then there would be a confrontation between two men: Moses, representing human aspirations for good, and Pharaoh, who represents man’s tendency for evil and cruelty. In such a one-on-one confrontation, Moses did not know who would emerge victorious. He wanted to approach Pharaoh with a power that transcends the human sphere and, therefore, he waited until G‑d promised to accompany him.

This was not a one-time event, but a motif that characterized Moses’ approach at all times. What made Moses effective? His ability to put his own self aside and be no more than a medium to communicate G‑d’s message. Whether speaking to Pharaoh or to the Jewish people, Moses did not speak his own words. He spoke in G‑d’s name, as our Sages’ say: “The Divine presence spoke from Moses’ mouth.”

When the image of leadership that a person projects is based on his own individual power, it may be effective in motivating certain people. But for a person to inspire a people as a whole, he should harness himself to a power much greater than his individual self. For in the long run, what is going to motivate other people is a mission that is transcendent in nature, one that gives them a goal above their individual selves. And the only way a leader can honestly impart such a mission to his people is when he has a similar sense of mission himself.

That was Moses’ unique ability. When the people complained to him, he told them: “... and we, what are we? Your complaints are not against us, but against G‑d.” He did not see himself personally as part of the picture at all. He had one goal: to communicate G‑d’s message and motivate others to carry it out.

In our own lives, each one of us can be a Moses in a certain sense, for we all have spheres of influence where others look up to us for guidance and direction. If what we give them is ourselves, then our message will have a limited scope. But if we can rise above ourselves and communicate G‑dly truth, our message will have universal appeal.

One might question: But what if I do not feel Divine inspiration? Of course, I’d like to communicate G‑d’s truth, but I don’t know how? I don’t know what G‑d would want me to say now.

In this, we can also draw guidance from Moses. Moses is patient. He does not go to Pharaoh until G‑d tells him that He will accompany him. Not only is he willing to serve as a medium for G‑d when he feels he has a G‑dly message to communicate, he is not willing to do anything unless he has such a message. He will not approach Pharaoh on his own. He waits until G‑d promises that He will accompany him.

Looking to the Horizon

The story of the exodus from Egypt is future-oriented, as our Sages promise: “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show [the people] wonders.” Just as the exodus from Egypt involved miracles that transcended our mortal expectations entirely, so too, when Mashiach comes, the natural order will bend to accommodate the supernatural. We will see miracles and wonders that go beyond our furthest dreams.

Implied is a very fundamental concept: That miracles are not for history books alone, and certainly, not for story books alone. In other words, a person should not regard the stories of miracles in the Bible as fairy-tales to tell a child until he grows up and gets wiser. Nor should they be regarded as events that could happen in the past, but are not part of our world today. Instead, we should understand that just as in previous generations, miracles occurred because G‑d is not bound by the laws of nature and can mold nature to fit His will, so too, in the present age, G‑d can act at will within the world and cause anything He desires to take place.

There is an intrinsic connection between miracles and the era of Mashiach, for the fundamental message conveyed by miracles is that the world is G‑d’s. It is not a realm that exists independently that is controlled by nature. It’s His world.

Since it is His world, we await an era when this will be openly revealed, when the G‑dliness in the world will be evident in an ongoing manner, not only upon occasion. This will take place in the era of Mashiach.