Saturday, January 21, 2017

Shemote--Moses, The Reluctant Prophet, at the Burning Bush

I will say this last bit, before Shemote, the beginning of Exodus (and it was hard, very hard, to say goodby to Genesis, with its dysfunctional family, its clashing personalities, its rivalries, all going on in the Shadow of God), disappears, until next year.
First of all, Moses is my favorite. He is not perfect, and he is the baby of the family, with Aaron as middle child, and Miriam as the long-suffering oldest sister-- a prophet in her own right, a musician, a singer, a dancer, a composer of songs. Poor thing. I can't say too much about her, now, but she does save her baby brother's life. The Torah Portion/Parsha is very rich, and I only have a bit here, before I go back to grading papers. I will focus, instead. on Moses's first theophany, where he has done a very Jewish thing: he has gone into his father-in-law's business, the shepherding business, and is trying to forget his cushy life as an Egyptian prince, and settle down with his beautiful black Zipporah, their boys Gershom and Elazar, and get into Jethro's business. Jethro is a wonderful man, and a great father-in-law. (Moses may well have been Black, too.)
But God will not let Moses alone; he is the Chosen One, the Prophet-to-be. He will be Chief of the Prophets, who speaks to God the way that you speak to your friend. He will be on the highest level of prophecy. And he meets God at the Burning Bush, a common-enough bit of desert vegetation, to show either that God is in mourning for His people, or that God can be anywhere in the Universe-- this is common enough boilerplate commentary, and traditional.
But what is significant is that, when God says, "Go to Egypt and free My people," Moses resists-- how audacious! How Jonah-like! How can one be so chutzpahdik, nervy, to say "No!" to the Sovereign of Heaven and Earth? And Moses is very specific about listing his objections to the mission:
--I'm a refugee; I killed a man. If Pharaoh's secret police find me, they will jail and execute me for murder.
--I can't speak; I stutter and lisp.
--The people won't believe me; you must give me a sign to show them that I'm legit!
--Who ARE You, anyway? I don't know any God like You. I don't know any invisible God. All the Egyptian gods were statues, and very clear to sight and touch.
--What's Your Name? You've got to have a Name.
--All the gods I know are tribal--and You say that You are the God of Heaven and Earth? That can't be!
And God, finally, loses His patience. He explains that He will be with Moses every step of the way-- He alone, not an angel, not a Seraph (a flaming archangel), and that Aaron will be spokesman for Moses-- this actually does not happen, but it's reassuring to our reluctant savior.
What all of this back-and-forth bargaining tells me is that we Israelites--and all the inheritors of our prophetic tradition-- are so lucky, to have a God Who allows for human interaction, not just blind faith. We must question; we must have a God Who, having created us with Free Will and Conscience, must always try the reins, push the boundaries, and ask, "What is it You ask of me, and what is Your part in this Covenant You ask me to fulfill?"
And we can be assured that God will never desert us, that, even in that Dark Night of the Soul, God is there-- that little spark of faith that we must sustain, even when we believe that we are alone. We are never alone. We are never lost.
God loves us-- far beyond the love of any mortal; far beyond the love of any human being.
Our God is love.