With his Shabbat, we begin Exodus and the scene in out narrative shifts to the time when revolution has taken Egypt and new power has taken over that “knew not Joseph”. We begin the saga of slavery, are introduced to Moses and his story and we encounter one of the great events in Torah, the call to Moses from the burning bush. We read of Moses’s reluctant “heneni”, and with it, we begin the long unfolding of the events that will tell the bulk of the story of the Wilderness experience.
There is great drama in “Sh’mot”. Many have been the commentaries and sermons on Moses and his reluctance to heed God’s call to go to Pharaoh and seek his people’s freedom. There is a line from that story, however, that struck me as very meaningful and it is a line that so many of us have spoken at various times in our life. In Exodus 3 God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and that God will be with him. Moses’s answer? “But Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). Commentators remark on the humility of Moses in this response, as well as the pattern of many Prophets who are reluctant to assume the role.
“Who am I?” Think now on aspects of our life, when events have overtaken us, when the random cards of life have been dealt to us, both for good things and not so good, and we have asked our self, or God, “who am I” that this should happen. “What have I done to deserve this?” Imbedded in this simple question is a profound question that so many of us ask. Who am I in the context of the universe? Who am I that this should happen? To play with this question opens up the challenges of living life, especially when we, as we age, begin to recall our life and try and evaluate how we responded to events that were so often out of our control. “Who am I” speaks to the randomness of life itself, of the fact that we control so little and that a true test of who we are is in how we choose to respond to those events. “Who Am I”? We are, each of us, a human being, carrying within us that spark of the sacred that, we hope, propels us to make c choices that sanctify and honor life. How we answer the question for each of us is a process of how life unfolds for us. “Who am I” changes from age to age and, as we mature and grow, we hope we can understand that our answer to that question emerges from out own self-image. In that sense, as tradition tells us, we are all part of Moses and Moses is a part of us, being tested as to how we answer the “call” of life.
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.