Sunday, January 12, 2014

At Sinai with Moses's Family: A Few Words from the People Left Standing at the Foot of the Mountain



Jethro: I remember when I first saw him, standing in the courtyard in front of our house in Midian—a tall, dark, bearded stranger, filthy and mud-spattered from the road, thorn-brambles in his feet—clearly a man who did not know how to find his way through a desert, and Who knows how he got clear past the Egyptian border guards without being arrested as a fugitive from Pharaoh’s justice, or worse. Bit of a snob about him, too—born to the purple, I would say, but still, enough of the common touch to make a man like him, once you got to talking with him. Still, there was always that far-off look in his eyes—as though he couldn’t be staying long; he had somewhere to go, Someone he was taking instructions from. I knew we were just a way-station on his journey, and was not surprised, the day he took my Tsipporah, my favorite, darling girl, and went his way….

Tsipporah: What drew me to him? He was certainly gentler, and far more educated, than the run of shepherds and country louts I knew from the village well, and even from the little school that my father, High-Priest Jethro, tried to run in Midian—those thickheaded know-it-alls who made fun of Papa when he would ask, “But where did the Sun come from? And do we all, indeed, ride the back of a Great Turtle set deep in the mud? Perhaps there is an Invisible Spirit that rules us all, that wants us to love, and for the different tribes not to fight with one another….” And when Moses, this Man with No Tribe, came along, suddenly, out of the desert, I was drawn to him. We would talk, and he would speak about his people, and how it hurt his heart to see them slaves. I wanted to help him. We married; we had our two boys, whom I love so much. But then, one day, he said, “Tsipporah! I must go.” And he was gone. It’s so, so hard to bear (she begins to weep).

Miriam: I always loved Moses, my baby brother—from the time he was just a tiny mite, looking up from the cradle—he never slept so much as Aaron did, when he was a baby; when Mama Yocheved would say to me, ‘Miri, watch our Baby Moshey,’ I was happy to stop whatever I was doing and go to play with him—he never slept! There he would be, eyes wide open, as though he were waiting for something to happen and didn’t want to miss a thing. I taught him all I knew, about the God, the One-Who-Is, Who stands—behind the brook, behind the trees, behind the sun, even. I taught him all I knew. And now, he tells me, ‘Miriam, I must climb that mountain—that one, there.’ He pointed, and, before I could ask, ‘But who will watch the people?’ He was gone.


Aaron: Ai, Moses—what have you given me to do? I was happy to be your spokesman, even to carry out the first few plagues—what was an Egyptian sorcerer before the might and power of our El-Shaddai? And how He beat back the stubbornness of Pharaoh, that long-tall-Ramesses the Second, himself, of the long nose and enormous pride, even to killing his son (voice drops to a whisper) though I never approved of that last plague, even though it was the one that finally freed us—what sort of God needs a human sacrifice? I cannot fathom it—but now, my brother is gone, and the people are pushing me to build them a god—or a place for our Invisible God to sit. I do not know what to do; I cannot bear the people not liking me; me, Aaron, the peacemaker! Will they threaten my life? I am afraid—I know; I’ll ask the women for their gold and jewels—they will never hand it over, not if I know women….