Parashat Hashavua for Shemot
Rabbi Misha Clebaner
North Shore Temple Emanuel
This week marks the beginning of the Book of Exodus.
From this opening parasha, Shemot, through the next few chapters we follow the journey of Moses and the Israelites as they refuse to be enslaved to the Egyptian Pharaoh. To defeat the tyrant, they must band together. Each and every Hebrew united with the common goal of freedom. All motivated by a belief in something greater than themselves. Through faith and unity they are propelled towards liberation.
Yet there was one individual that was hesitant to join this mission: Moses himself.
Fearing his ability to unite with the rest of the people and doubting their capacity for faith and hope, Moses recoils at the thought of accepting his leadership role: “What if they do not believe me and do not listen to me?!” (Exodus 4:1)
How could he as a young man that was raised in the palace of the Pharoah not only join the movement for freedom but all the more so be the one to lead it?
Fearing that others will see him as an outsider - as an Egyptian, as a part of the wealthy elite - Moses does not believe in the plan presented to him by God. The Israelites will be fine without him, he pleads to God.
Yet the moment that Aaron and Moses approach the people, the response is not one that Moses anticipated:
“Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites. Aaron repeated all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and he performed the signs in the sight of the people, and the people were convinced.” (Exodus 4:29-31)
If your heart is pure, the message sound and the plan is seen to be effective - then the questions and concerns about “who you are” are replaced by those of what you stand for.
While Joseph was able to rise to power as a result of many years of hard labour, Moses was given his economically privileged status from the beginning (at a dear cost).
Yet both men were able to give back and assist their community.
The lesson that Moses learns from his people is that anyone can contribute even if they are the ultimate outsider.
Everyone must contribute and fight for change, especially if they are the outsider.
This is also the lesson of the Torah and the Jewish people.