A new Pharaoh arose and our history changed again. The Book of Exodus opens with this simple, yet, significant phrase that signaled the shift in Jewish history. The portion is rich in story lines. We meet two heroines, Shifra and Puah, who save the infant Moses and enable his adoption into the house of Pharaoh. Moses’s story begins as we see his encounter with the taskmaster and later, in chapter 3, his “call” from the bush that was not consumed by fire.
As part of this encounter in chapter 3 we see another of the great questions that are raised in Torah. In 3:11 Moses hears the promise of God to intervene in the plight of the Hebrews and calls on Moses to go to Pharaoh. Moses’s reaction, so typical, is a simple mi anochi: who am I?
Let me suggest that this is a powerful question not only from Moses, but also for each of us. As we get older, so many of us ask ourselves in quiet reflective moments, who we are, what has been our life, and what of our future? So many of us ask this question now in light of two years of Covid and the consistent reality of this free floating anxiety that surrounds so many. Who and I at this stage of life? Who am I in this world? Who am I in relationship to friends and family? Who am I in relation to my own dreams and desires? Who am I in relation to what I believe God to be at this stage of life? Is it a coincidence of the text that immediately following this question that God reveals God’s name, a name that speaks to an ever unfolding future? Is the text telling us that who we are is an on-going process of discovery? Do we ever stop growing, becoming or evolving? Do we ever stop searching for the sacred, for the ‘God” in us?
How will you answer that question: Mi anochi?
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.